health

When Liquor and Lupus Meet at a Party by Shanelle Gabriel

Originally posted on my blog on www.lupusnewstoday.com

“Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!” The chant is repeated by my squad of friends at the bar. It’s my friend’s birthday and celebrations go hand in hand with alcohol. For many, it’s not a good birthday if you can walk a straight line at the end of the night. The definition of “turning up” is clinking plastic flute glasses around an overpriced bottle of rapper-endorsed liquor, dancing at whatever beat or pace the mixed drinks tell you to, and doing things that you will laugh about the next day over a post-hangover brunch. This was me in my 20s. Not anymore.

Unlike most people, I really started drinking after college. While partygoers sipped amaretto sours, I was usually too busy dancing and sweating profusely on the packed dance floor to think about fighting to get a bartender’s attention. Besides, water was free and I was a broke college student. When I graduated, I became an “adult,” which meant it was adult-like to go for a drink or two with co-workers, pair a glass of merlot with your steak, and pose with a glass of bubbly at your Pinterest-worthy picnic. The message is: “You’re grown; grown people drink.”

However, I learned early that alcohol puts my body in a climate ready and ripe for a lupus flare. It leaves me dehydrated and fatigued, and it makes some of my medications not work as effectively. My liver is already processing prescribed drugs; I’m somewhat paranoid about making it work any harder. So, where does alcohol fit in a Lupie world of medications and the need for ample hydration and rest? Do I have to turn down everything people do to turn up?

Telling someone you don’t drink is usually followed with, “Are you on antibiotics?” “What, you prefer whiskey? I have some here.” Or even a gasp and, “OMG, are you pregnant?” Telling a group of people you want to pass on a glass is equal to telling someone bragging about their amazing wedding that you just got left at the altar; it makes them feel self-conscious or judged for enjoying their day. People bond over liquor, and now it’s like you don’t want to bond with them.

I used to feel like I had to drink to make people feel comfortable, to be a part of my environment. I still feel that way at times. But at the end of the day, I really don’t need to drink to have fun as long as the music is good and my friends are present. My true friends won’t mind if I choose to drink in moderation and will gladly pour me a shot of ginger ale if it means I’ll be OK the next morning. Somehow, people think the drink makes the party, but it’s the people around me who make the celebration happen. I can have a fun time just being high on life knowing it’s a gift to not be in a hospital bed. Still want to sip a little somethin’ somethin’? Red wine has antioxidants, so that might be a healthier alternative (no more than a glass or two). Most studies, like “Alcohol and Arthritis” by the Arthritis Foundation, suggest that drinking in moderation on occasion isn’t terrible and that you ask your doctor if the general health rule of one drink a day for women, two for men, is the right one to follow.

The questions on why you aren’t drinking can be annoying, though. I have a fun trick that I use: I ask the bartender for a glass of pineapple juice mixed with cranberry juice, make sure they include a garnish, and sip it slowly. Most people assume there’s vodka in there and, boom, no questions. Cheers!

Join the Twitter #LupusChat on Sunday, Nov 13 @ 3pm EST by Shanelle Gabriel

Join me and the official host Tiffany Peterson (@Tiffanyandlupus) for a #LupusChat on Sunday, November 13, from 3:00-4:00 PM ET on Twitter.  GSK is pleased to sponsor and participate in the #LupusChat, which will focus on tools and tips lupus patients can use now to improve the patient/physician dialogue. Details are posted @Lupus_Chat and @GSKUS. Feel free to share!

Help for Lupies: What Do Your Lab Tests Mean? by Shanelle Gabriel

Being that I firmly believe in patients taking an active role in understanding and managing their illness, I did a google search and thanks to www.cure4lupus.org, I was able to find a detailed explaination of the standard Lupus bloodwork and lab test abbreviations and values. Hope this helps!
Read More

Lupus Blog: Benlysta Blues by Shanelle Gabriel

Once a month, I get up when the sun comes up, put on some leggings and a hoodie, and head to SUNY Downstate for my monthly infusion of Benlysta. This process literally takes my entire day, from 8:30-3pm. Come follow me, follow me, follow me down the path to getting the only medication created to treat Lupus.

7:30am:
The only reason I can get out of bed is the promise of sleep during the long process at the hospital. On days I have been allowed to flex my hours and get to go to work late, it's a nice rest. So, I throw something comfy and quick on and take the train there (parking sucks in the area).

8:30am:
I arrive at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and get on the line for outpatient registration. Low and behold, the woman who totally ignores my good mornings and checks me in is absent, leaving the older, less speedy man to register everyone by himself. The struggle is real. This process has taken anywhere from 10-45 minutes, just to have them put the bill in the system and print me a paper. I say thank you and head to the 6th floor.

9:00am-
I get to walk through the Cancer ward of the hospital to the chemotherapy unit. "Wait, I thought you had Lupus?" Yep, I do but the same guy that mixes the IV infusions of chemo and dialysis treatments mixes the Benlysta for my IV treatment. It's a big room where everyone sits in a wide circle with their own sea-green leather recliner and loud ass personal TV so they can watch Maury or Divorce Court during their stay. Personally, it's not fun being surrounded by cancer patients since my mom passed away from cancer a few years ago and chemo did nothing for her. But a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do. I get my vitals taken and blood drawn to make sure I'm healthy enough to get a treatment that suppresses my overactive immune system. Ohh and they serve free breakfast. Yay. (I wish there was an emoji that indicated my extreme sarcasm). I'm greedy so I eat it anyways.

10:30am-
Yes, two hours later, the results from my tests come back. My Rheumatologist has to check the labs and evaluate them. If the results suck (meaning if there's a risk of infection from a low White blood cell count or something like that), then I get my meds raised, sent home, and told to come back in a week. If all is decent, the order is made for the guy in the basement to get his double-double-toil-and-trouble on and mix a bag of Benlysta. The nurse starts me on a drop of fluids for a bit until it's ready.

11:30am-
I have no clue what the Macbeth witch is doing but it takes him forever to mix & bring up the Benlysta. So in the meantime, I get my IV of Benadryl which prevents me from having any sort of allergic reaction...and knocks me out like Fight Night. Here is where I catch up on any missing hours of sleep and not even the man screaming his excitement for not being some child's father on my neighbor's loud personal TV can wake me. I do wake for lunch which I usually request to be the Tuna sandwich and salad, and give away the soda it comes with. (I never understood hospitals that serve soda and fatty food to its patients. I guess that's how they stay in business.)

12:15pm-
Finally, the bag of Benlysta makes its way to the IV line on the top of my hand. Still groggy from the Benadryl, I head back to sleep between answering work emails and the occasional phone call. This is the best part of the process: finally getting it and sleeping.

Almost 2pm-

Beep! Beep! The IV machine signals that I'm done. I get some more fluids to flush my veins, and the nurse removes my IV. Since I'm on blood thinners, it takes a sec to get the blood to stop flowing. Once it's safe, the lil bandaid goes on it, completing my time in the Chemo Ward. I get asked to schedule the next one exactly 4 weeks away by day, not by date. It can be difficult making this decision without consulting my job but I've been getting better at it.

Overall, I'm still on prednisone so I don't know how effective Benlysta is. My doctor swears it's doing something. I don't know... But it's a part of my world, Take care if it ends up being in yours.

Cool Post: "REASONS 'NOT' TO WEIGHT LIFT" by Shanelle Gabriel

Taken from http://www.liftbigeatbig.com/2013/06/10-reasons-why-heavy-lifting-is.html

Everyone knows that lifting makes women big, bulky, and less desirable. But, do they know the reasons why? I compiled my top ten reasons as to why women should NEVER EVER even think about touching a weight. Ever. 

 1. You will find less and less that you are asked to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich. What will you do with all that free time?!?

2. Men on the Internet will tell you that you are too big. Can you handle no longer being the object of a stranger's fantasy?

3. Pants won't fit because your butt has gotten so big. Imagine actually filling out a pair of pants, the horror!!

4. Your children might see that a woman can be something more than a frail object meant to please a man. Challenging the status quo is never a good thing.

5. You can eat a much larger amount of delicious food and not gain a pound. Disgusting! Pass the tofu and skim milk please.

6.  Men will avoid you at the gym when you lift more than they do. How are you supposed to know how to lift without their constant coaching?

7. You will be able to open a pickle jar without a man or a knife. No one should possess that much raw power.

8. Your bones will maintain a thick density throughout your life. Do you really want to rob a surgeon of your money for osteoporosis treatment?

9. Heavy lifting can be as diverse as you want to make it. Your time would be much better spent on a treadmill every day watching CNN.

10. You will be shunned from old friends that want you to go clubbing every night. Those are the kinds of friends you just don't want to lose.

Get the official poster HERE.

New Blog Post: "Pills and Potions: When everyone knows the cure" by Shanelle Gabriel

The walls were a pale beige color, kind of a "mother of pearl" shade. No windows; just one door that remained wide open with a billion footsteps shuffling back and forth. This was my umpteenth time in the ER for complications with my autoimmune illness. My nurse was from the Carribbean (like many in this hospital in Flatbush, Brooklyn), and he had a thick Jamacian accent. He comes in to do a vitals check and then asks if I'm chronically sick. I tell him I have Lupus. I usually expect that to be followed with eyes that say "I feel so sorry for you. Shame. So young..." Instead he perks up. "Oh me kno' jus' de ting. See, me cousin sell dis drink a called Noni juice. It a purify ya blood an get ridda alla dat sickness inna' ya blood." I thank him but kind of wave him off. Before I leave the hospital after my overnight stay, this nurse hunts my room down and gives me a complimentary bottle of this liquid Noni cure. 

A few weeks ago, I was hanging with my friend JB and his friend. We got to talking over a bad Boston Market meal, and me having Lupus came up. The friend says, "What if I told you you could heal yourself?" I wonder where this conversation is going and what type of lifestyle change he's about to try to sell me on. He starts speaking about alkalinity and the body needing to be less acidic. I let him talk although I've heard this cure before. Later, he brings up leafy veggies and I say that I can't have too much vitamin K because of the blood thinners I'm on that prevent me from having, oh let's say, a STROKE, since I had a pulmonary embolism a few months ago. His only response: "Well stop taking them. You won't need them after a while, anyways." Everyone has the cure. 

I don't know a person with a chronic illness that hasn't gotten fed up with the constant stream of prescriptions doctors swear by that, due to side effects and blanket treatments, only seem to lead to a sea of pills. And when many of us have gotten fed up, all these "natural cures" on the Internet and in the media seem to be a better option. So we push away the prednisone and start juicing. We do cleanses and special diets. And our doctors freak the freak out. 

See, I don't blame medical doctors for pushing prescriptions. Many of them were not required to take a course on nutrition or the healing power of foods. They are so technically and chemically trained that they cannot fathom something helping without knowing how. They need a carbon + oxygen+phospholipid trail to make it make sense. They can't state "I have no clue why, but it works." And because they don't know how it works, many of them don't prescribe it. So we're left to figure it out on our own, for better or worse. 

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the power of Eastern Medicine. However, I know that when that fails me, I'm running right back to a Western doctor faster than a veteran nurse can put in an IV. I have done the extreme switch from pills to potions... And gotten even more sick (and broke) than when I started. I believe good health comes from a healthy blend of the two, a balance of preventative and restorative medicine. I take plaquenil to improve my condition and Dandelion root tea to clean my liver. I eat a whole foods diet, and I exercise and take yoga to de-stress, promote circulation, and improve joint function. But, I'm not afraid to get a steroid injection if need be. Any changes I decide to make to my diet or pill regiment, whether my doctor likes it or not, I let her know so that if anything goes really wrong, she knows where the source may lie. And to all of the people with their magical healing concoctions, medical conspiracy theories, and tales of people curing themselves of cancer then walking on water, I tell them to email me sources (not just from the website selling the product swearing Dr So-and-so cosigns this therapy) and say thank you. I don't allow people to make feel guilty for trusting a medical professional over an anointing from a pastor because I believe God gave mankind wisdom to come up with treatments for various illnesses. Yes, I know capitalism and greed very well might be the reason we see more treatments and less cures today. But just as each body, person, lifestyle, illness is special, you have a right to mix your own cocktail of pills and potions to suit your own special pallet. 

My Interview with HuffPost Live & Dr. Marc Lamont Hill by Shanelle Gabriel

I was blessed to be a guest on Dr. Marc Lamont Hill's show on HuffPost Live to discuss Lupus alongside

* Sarah Stothers (RN & Health Educator for the Lupus Foundation of America; National Nurse Health Educator)

* Imani Perry (Professor at the Princeton Center for African American Studies; Diagnosed With Lupus)

It was a great discussion with a lot of great points on the need for awareness and what the battle against Lupus looks like. Check it out!

 

Footage from the 2014 World Lupus Day Flash Mob by Shanelle Gabriel

Myself and the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation's Young Leaders took Lupus Research to the Power of 10 in recognition of World Lupus Awareness Day May 10. A Flash Mob of volunteer dancers brought attention to lupus among hundreds of visitors to Union Square Park in Manhattan. Here's the video!!

I've "Just Been Tested"... I'm HIV Negative, Baby! by Shanelle Gabriel

Last Friday, May 17th, I attended an mixer event sponsored by The Wall Street Alphas to raise money for the AIDS Walk. Also sponsoring the event was www.JustBeenTested.com, a social networking website geared around the importance of KNOWING YOUR STATUS. The creator/founder, my friend (and fraternity brother) Alonzo Davis was there... with a mobile HIV testing center! I firmly believe and support what his site is doing and, while I knew my status (I was tested during a check-up a few weeks back), I like to lead by example, sooooooooo.....

I GOT TESTED! 

People think it's a scary experience, but it's wayyyy simpler than they think. I walked into what seemed like a bakery van and was instantly in a doctor's office with two nurse practitioners. They were both super friendly and asked me to fill-out a few papers: one just asked some office-type questions (name, address, etc) and the other was a verification form for www.JustBeenTested.com. Oh, I forgot to mention, a cool part of the site is that when you do things like get tested (the results aren't given or asked for; it's just a form that you scan or fax to say that you did it), comment on posts, or stay active on the site, you win $100 gift cards, t-shirts, and more. So by getting tested and filling out that form, I got points towards that gift card that I know will come in handy next month around my birthday. :)

Anywho, the nurse practitioner sat me down, asked me if I've ever been tested before (uh, yea, Shanelle doesn't play that!), and then asked me the one question that kinda got into my head: 

"So if for some reason this test comes back positive, do you feel that you have emotional support to help you deal with it?" 

Whoa. That was kinda scary... but a good question. I hope more people think about that when they're engaged in risky behavior. I told him yes, and he made me sign the form stating my swab number. He handed me a small swab stick and told me to rub it across my cheek and over my gums. That was it. Test done. No blood, no needles. But now...

THE WAIT!!!!

The longest 20 minutes ever! It felt even longer than the line to go to the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July. This is the part that Chris Rock talked about in Bigger and Blacker: "Here's where you start to think about every questionable piece of a** you've ever had..." lol. Even if you know you've been good, haven't done anything, and have been negative before, you still start thinking "What if the negative I got was a mistake? What if those 5 HIV tests I took were all flawed??? AHHHH!" My advice at this time, go somewhere, have a drink, listen to some 2 Chains or something else mind-numbing and calm it down. Until you get bad news (and I pray you don't) there's no reason to get worked up. 

I came back 20 minutes later, and my nurse practitioner confirmed: I'M HIV NEGATIVE, BABY!

He proceeded to give me a round-trip Metrocard (YES!) and a JustBeenTested gift bag, complete with JBT lip balm, hand sanitizer, and mints... all so I can attract someone who I can get down with and end up back here getting tested. JUST JOKING! All nice gifts to keep on me to make sure I tell others about the value in getting tested and the coolness of knowing your status. 

I hope this story made you a lil less weary of the idea of getting tested. It's not a game: more than 1.2 million people in the United States are presently living with AIDS, and 1 in 5 people are unaware of their positive status. Crazy, huh? Don't end up in this statistic. Wrapping it up isn't enough. Condoms break and there are STIs/STDs you can get even using condoms. If you're grown enough to be getting busy, you're grown enough to have the conversation about testing before you do it. Shoot, there's nothing sexier than a clean bill of health! For realz.

ANDDDD make sure you join this awesome site that "wants to reward you for knowing your STI status and for adding to the dialogue about sex, relationships and overall sexual health."

VISIT WWW.JUSTBEENTESTED.COM 

 

"Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?" By Mark Bittman by Shanelle Gabriel

THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Besides, that argument, even if we all needed to gain weight, is not always true. A meal of real food cooked at home can easily contain more calories, most of them of the “healthy” variety. (Olive oil accounts for many of the calories in the roast chicken meal, for example.)In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.

“Anything that you do that’s not fast food is terrific; cooking once a week is far better than not cooking at all,” says Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University and author of “What to Eat.” “It’s the same argument as exercise: more is better than less and some is a lot better than none.”

THE fact is that most people can afford real food....

(Read the rest of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/is-junk-food-really-cheaper.html?_r=4&ref=opinion)