Thursday, June 18, 2009

A human barometer

At risk of sounding like Goldilocks, when it comes to temperature, I really need it to be just right.

In the middle of Summer, endless extreme heat cranks up the MS fatigue, leaving me with little energy for anything more than the bare basics. I revel in Autumn and its flip-side Spring, both being my most productive times of year. But here I am once more, creaking towards the shortest day of the year, with Winter aggravating my fibromyalgia.

I ache all over - every joint and muscle. Even my fingernails hurt! It takes me most of the day to warm up enough to make moving more comfortable - and then the sun slips over the bloody yard arm and it all winds back down again, so by bed time I am once again stiff and sore.

I remind myself of Pa in the old Ma and Pa Kettle movies - his rheumatism kept him grumpy and unable to do any work (offering him the perfect excuse to leave it all to Ma!) and I cringe to think that is how I might come across at this time, but it really is quite debiltating. Nothing much seems to help and I just have to suck it in and wait for warmer weather - studies may not be conclusive about cold weather increasing the condition, but they obviously haven't studied MY body! I am definitely a human barometer!

(and if you think some of the Fibro symptoms sound a lot like my MS sysmptoms, there is a lot of similarity, however tests have shown I am affected by BOTH conditions - a lottery prize I would prefer not to have won!)

The term "rheumatism" is still used in colloquial speech and historical contexts, but is no longer frequently used in medical or technical literature; there is no longer any recognized disorder simply called "rheumatism." Some countries use the word Rheumatism to describe fibromyalgia syndrome. The traditional term covers such a range of different problems that to ascribe symptoms to "rheumatism" is not to say very much. Nevertheless, sources dealing with rheumatism tend to focus on arthritis. However, "non-articular rheumatism", also known as "regional pain syndrome" or "soft tissue rheumatism" can cause significant discomfort and difficulty.[2] Furthermore, arthritis and rheumatism between them cover at least 200 different conditions.

There has long been said to be a link between "rheumatic" pain and the weather. There appears to be no firm evidence in favour or against; a 1995 questionnaire given to 557 people by A. Naser and others at the Brigham and Women's Hospital's Pain Management Center concludes that "changes in barometric pressure are the main link between weather and pain. Low pressure is generally associated with cold, wet weather and an increase in pain. Clear, dry conditions signal high pressure and a decrease in pain".[5]

The defining symptoms of fibromyalgia are chronic, widespread pain and painful response to touch (allodynia). Other symptoms can include moderate to severe fatigue, needle-like tingling of the skin, muscle aches, prolonged muscle spasms, weakness in the limbs, nerve pain, functional bowel disturbances,[14] and chronic sleep disturbances.[15] Sleep disturbances may be related to a phenomenon called alpha-delta sleep, a condition in which deep sleep (associated with delta waves) is frequently interrupted by bursts of alpha waves, which normally occur during wakefulness. Slow-wave sleep is often dramatically reduced.[citation needed]

Many patients experience cognitive dysfunction[16] (known as "brain fog" or "fibrofog"), which may be characterized by impaired concentration,[17] problems with short[17][18] and long-term memory, short-term memory consolidation,[18] impaired speed of performance,[17][18] inability to multi-task, cognitive overload,[17][18] diminished attention span, anxiety, and depressivesymptoms.[18] "Brain fog" may be directly related to the sleep disturbances experienced by sufferers of fibromyalgia.[citation needed]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mothers Meeting

Last Thursday, a group of mums and their babies met at our centre. They chatted, drank tea and coffee, played, breastfed and generally had a good time all round.

This is not terribly remarkable in the day to day experience of life in the Australian Breastfeeding Association and is generally the norm most days here at the Breastfeeding Centre in Dandenong.

So why was this gathering notable? 

These mothers were all Afghani migrants, with little English and no previous experience of the culture taken for granted by most Australian-born mums. As Muslims, their head scarves single them out in the community as *different* and cultural traditions tend to limit integration into our western society.

Now, I have heard for years, from various doom-sayers, that "these women" are not interested in groups like ABA, that they "won't go" to our coffee mornings and discussion meetings and anyway, they "don't have trouble breastfeeding". All possibly true, but not spouted by those who had tried and failed, but by those never brave enough to try and possibly fail.

My experience was, apart from my complete inability to speak any of their language and their limited abilities to speak some of mine, that this meeting was just the same as those I have attended during the past 25 years in ABA. There were a couple of mums worried about breastfeeding - one low supply that wasn't and one sore nipples that were! - and the others were just taking it in their stride. All were keen to participate in our limited discussion and indicated they would like to return another day.

It is time everyone threw out preconcieved notions of what migrant - and other - groups of mothers will or will not do. My theroy is, invite them and see what happens!