Let Go My Norco

On Friday, January 25, 2013, an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted 19 to 10 to recommend moving hydrocodone combination drugs, such as Vicodin, Lortab, and Norco to the schedule II category of controlled substances. If the FDA follows the panel’s recommendation and moves hydrocodone combination drugs from their current schedule III to schedule II, prescribing practices would be more restricted. … [original article here]

Like many of you, I deal with pain on a 24/7 basis. When I am talking, laughing, smiling, or queening out, believe it or not, I am in pain. Here is an inside scope on those who live with pain— we have a high tolerance to it and we are incredibly strong. It is only when the pain is so unbearable that you can see it on our face.

Now each person has their own way of coping with daily pain. Many do the healthy-living (i.e., eating well, doing yoga, etc–check out these great posts). Overall, the majority try to keep themselves occupied so to not focus on the pain. What do I do? I keep my mind busy with some activity (i.e., work, watching some sitcom marathon on some ridiculous network [thank you, CLOO for the 3-day Psych marathon!!]) AND I rely heavily on my drugs, especially my precious Norco (hyrdrocodone/acetaminophen)– the cooler, pot-smoking cousin of Vicodin. Dr. Lupus prescribed a 180-count per month prescription, and I am expected to take one-pill every 4 to 6 hours. But as we all may have experienced, pain is not a uniform symptom. I have good days that I can take my 1-pill every 4 hours. But most likely, I will have days where I am taking 2-3 pills as needed (i.e., whenever I feel like it to keep my sanity). Why? Because- WHEN IN PAIN, I NEED MORE THAN JUST ONE MEASLY PILL TO QUIET THE PAIN. I have been taking Norco for over 3 years now. At first taste, one pill did the trick, but as time went by, I was needing more and more.  Taking hydrocodone is a vicious cycle- because users can form a tolerance towards these opiate drugs, which means you need more of it to have an effect. Personally, I am OK with that. As you read this, you are probably thinking that I have a major dependence on the drug. If you don’t think that, well, keep reading, because if I haven’t convinced you yet… I think I will do a stand-up job in the next couple of paragraphs.

Before I left the office today, I received an email notification that my prescription was ready for pick-up. Just as I was reading it, I smiled, swallowed the last four Norco pills and made a mental note to stop the pharmacy before crashing into my bed. Perfect timing. You see, after 3+ years of experience with the Texas Controlled Substance Act, I have picked-up a few tips and managed to never be without opiates and always with a “comfortable” supply (for those bad days). One day, I will disclose those tips. Unfortunately, during the past month, I had to dip into my “Norco” savings, and by dipping, I mean DIVING IN. I left nothing (oops). So, I was desperately relying on today’s pick-up.

At my neighborhood pharmacy, of which my hard-earned funds go to, I was told “it is too soon” to pick-up my Norco prescription and to “come back on April 4th”. I decided to not panic right away and pleasantly state that there may be a mistake because I was notified via email that my prescription was ready. Now, the following is the dialogue that occurred at the Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Sugar Land, Texas. Because I am so talented, I played the role of the classy diva, sarcastic diva, raving queen, and Diva Licious Jones (my tranny name).

The silly pharmacist continues to speak with me with some stick up her ass: “Did you take more than what you were suppose to?”

Classy Diva: “Fuck yes I did, how else am I able to walk, stand and have this heated conversation with you about my painkillers?”

Crap-pharmacist: “You are allotted 4-6 pills a day for pain”

Sarcastic Diva: “Oh sorry. Let me give that message to my body that is being attacked by its own immune system. I am sure it didn’t get the memo.”

Pharmacist: “The controlled substance law states…”

Raving-Queen: “I am going to stop you there. How about this. Why don’t you go get hit by a truck, or get cancer, or suffer from some painful disease like arthritis or lupus, and then, tell me if you give a damn what the controlled substance law says. It is OK, I will wait.”

Dumb-bitch who still doesn’t get it: “There is no need for that. You are just going to have to come back in 7 days. You will not get your painkillers”

Diva Licious Jones: “That is where you are wrong” [pulls the around-the-world-snap and struts out of Walgreen’s] *side bar- I strutted like a true diva but that shit hurt*

What was my next move. PANIC! First, I called my fellow-lupus warrior to bitch about what had happened and to see if I could bum a few painkillers. Second, I called my long-time buddy-past-lover/druggie to score drugs off the streets. How dare that pharmacist refuse my drugs! She was clueless to say that I would not get them today. I know it is possible to score outside the pharmacy, because the older classy ladies at my infusion clinic speak of this all the time. For fuck-sake, I buy weed from a 68-year-old diva (gotta love the pain-community)! So, I left my sure-thing-slam-dunk-move for last. I called in the same prescription at the Walgreen’s in the neighboring town… AND WON! #Rulesweremadetobebroken.

What is the bottom-line? Am I dependent on opiates? Maybe. Will I do anything to have a steady stash? Hell Yes. Like I said before, each person has their own way of coping with pain. I don’t judge anyone for eating grass, going to acupuncture, smoking pot, drinking pure lemon juice or etc.

Here is your Diva’s Note: I think at this point, fans, we need to do what makes us happy AND feel good. We just have to remember that every action has a consequence. I will smoke a doobie, sprinkle Norco on my ice cream, and drink glasses of vino until I can peacefully pass-out pain-free. We already go through so much that no one would ever understand, so why not make the most of it?

STAY FABULOUS!

Just Say No

… just remember that only we know what we’re going through each day. We need to do what’s best for us, not what others want us to do.

Beautifully said by my fellow-fabulous-lupus warrior, Vero. She reminded me today that it is OK to say “no” in order to stay healthy and happy.

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The Lupus Foundation of America recently published a nice article on saying “no” so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves with life: http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_magazineback.aspx?articleid=3009&zoneid=67

Fans, remember that you are your number one priority. We must take it easy and one step at a time. Lupus is a life-changing chronic disease. Anyone who says differently obviously hasn’t been catatonic with pain. We have to accept it and start making the necessary changes so we can live everyday to its fullest.
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Stay FABULOUS and say NO

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Vero and me (December 2012)

Resolving the Energy Crisis

As many as 80 percent of people with lupus experience fatigue. Lupus Foundation of America

What is your biggest complaint of lupus? Pain? Lupus fog? Fatigue? All are crappy symptoms that we must deal with daily–sometimes gracefully and not-so-gracefully at other times. Today, I plan to queen out about FATIGUE. Lately, my conversations have been going something like this:

Regular female: Hi! How are you? How are you feeling?

Diva: I’m OK (lying through my teeth).

Regular female:  Well, you cannot believe the day I had! I blah blah blah blah, and then blah blah blah.  So, do you want to join the girls and I  to do stupid-girl things? I plan on spending 2 hours in getting ready, so to lure a shady man to buy one drink for me. And then, I am going to hopelessly fall in instant love with him- because he buys me that one drink- but then, I will be super upset because he will never call. Are you sure you are OK? You look a little beat.

Diva: Yes, I am fine (lying through teeth). I am a little tired (lying through teeth… full exhaustion and headache setting in) so I am just going to call it a night and drug myself to sleep. Have fun tonight (rolling eyes).

After dealing with fatigue for who-knows-how-long, it finally dawns on me:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have an ENERGY CRISIS on our hands!

An energy crisis is any great bottleneck (or price rise) in the supply of energy resources to an economy. -from the experts at Wikipedia 😉 (…i have no idea what this means…)

Fatigue is no stranger to me, and it has become a blasted-barrier in my life. I have tried several recommendations to help win against fatigue, but I still find myself fighting that battle. Here are some easy tips from the Lupus Foundation of America:

Tips to Help You Manage Fatigue

  • Alternate activities with periods of rest throughout the day.
  • Establish good sleep patterns.
  • Plan ahead; for example, shop for gifts throughout the year.
  • Prepare meals in advance.
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  • Stop smoking if you smoke.

Because of lupus and its adorable symptoms (i.e., including extreme fatigue), I have cut down from full-time to part-time status at work. Fatigue has really affected my productivity at work, and performing 150% 5 days a week was becoming less and less doable. Today on my day off, I proposed a plan to resolve My energy crisis. Before revealing my plan, let me break down my day to demonstrate the amount of thought and detail that went to such a logical plan.

1. Opened eyes from a 12-hour coma and crawled out of bed at 11 am (don’t judge it was my day-off) still feeling exhausted.

2. Perform my daily rituals of coffee, steroids, pain-killers, vitamins, and dulce de leche on a slice of toast (very Argentine of me ;))

3. Realized that I had a prescription of Norco (a painkiller) ready for me at the pharmacy. This was enough motivation for me to get out of bed… Showered at 1 pm. (again- don’t you dare judge!)

4. While at pharmacy, stumbled onto the vitamin and supplement aisle and noticed the following product: GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Energy and Metabolism Multivitamin. These timed-release caplets provide a gradual release of vital nutrients.

5. I read the product information:

Clinically studied multivitamin

  • With 1600 IU of vitamin D-3 for breast+ and bone health*
  • Calorie burning support*
  • Boosts energy and metabolism*
  • Supports mental focus*

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 112 healthy volunteers, subjects taking the GNC vitamin and mineral blend in this product for six weeks experienced statistically significant improvements in markers of B vitamin and antioxidant status, as well as improvements in SF-36 Vitality and Mental Health scores compared to those taking a placebo

Advanced Nutritional Support

  • Includes 1600 IU of vitamin D-3. +Emerging research suggests that adequate daily vitamin D intake may play a role in supporting breast and colon health.*
  • Supplies B-vitamins that are essential for energy production and metabolism.*
  • Provides important bone-strengthening nutrients including 500mg of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D-3 that are essential in the development of healthy bones and teeth.* Adequate calcium and vitamin D in a healthy diet throughout life may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Calorie Burning Support

  • Features an energy and metabolism blend that helps boost energy and metabolism and support calorie burning.* The components in this blend also help support mental focus.*

Antioxidant Protection

  • Contains a premium blend of antioxidants including selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E to aid in supporting the body’s immunity.*
  • Combines lutein and zeazanthin to support eye health with lycopene, an antioxidant from tomatoes to support cardiovascular health.*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease

GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Energy and Metabolism Multivitamin Label

5. Decided to give these pills a try. I am in need of vitamin B and D supplements and will benefit from the extra boost of energy (and metabolism– this diva is getting jiggggggly). Also, I would not mind the boost in mental focus.

6. Swallowed one (2 pills are recommended per day) at 4:30 pm. I already noticed one thing: these pills smell funny.

7. Today marks Day 1/2 of resolving my energy crisis with this multivitamin supplement. I plan on tracking my status every 2-3 days.

I know what you are thinking “Diva, you sure thought this through.”

Fans, don’t be too jealous of my well-laid-out plan (haha!). I did make a note in my trusty notebook about my new purchase, because I will be visiting with Dr. Lupus on Friday and want to make sure he knows of my new plan to resolve my energy crisis.

Diva note: Always tell your doc of all the medications (including vitamins) that you put into your body.

Stay Tuned… AND 

Stay Fabulous!

Walk This Way with Team Unbreakable

Houston 2012 Walk for Lupus Now is an opportunity for people with lupus and their loved ones to come together and support each other.

The 2012 Walk, Run & Live, with supporters from the entire Texas Gulf Coast region, help the Lupus Foundation of America find a cure for lupus. Over 30,000 Houstonians are living with lupus.

Team Unbreakable before the Journey

For the second year, I have had the greatest pleasure in leading (along with Vero) TEAM UNBREAKABLE.  Our team raised over $4600, ranking us number 4 in Texas Gulf Coast region! This year on May 6, I was surrounded by many others in the Houston community, including Ally from Team Ally.

Here is my picture book experience of the 2012 Walk for Lupus Now adventure:

Rise and Shine! I am one sleepy diva.

Awaiting for the others to stumble in post-Cinco de Mayo festivities

Our team mascot arrived sporting the best fashion.

Yup, I am wearing a purple tutu (custom made by my fabulous friend)

The Fabulous Vero and her family and friends

Someone stole my look!!

With the tut and the pimp cane… about to start the journey…

Few of my best friends= the greatest support system

My #1 Fan- my father, the viejo.

Vero and I mid-walk… starting to feel exhausted.

🙂

walking it out!

Big Finish!

Vero and I post-walk. This is also right before my body punished me for pushing it too hard.

Post-Walk

The walk was such a great success. I would like to thank all my friends and family for all their massive support. I could not have completed the walk without their energy and love. However, I did push myself too far by completing the walk. Soon after the walk, I became seriously ill and fell into a 20-hr coma. I was not able to move until that Tuesday! But at the end of the day… IT WAS WORTH IT!

POP- Put on Purple

Research shows most Americans know little or nothing about lupus and its devastating impact on millions of people. You can change that! Put on Purple and tell people why it’s important to raise awareness of lupus and show support for those who suffer from it. BAND TOGETHER for lupus awareness and help the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) fight this unpredictable and sometimes fatal disease.” –Lupus Foundation of America

Get your purple ready for May 18.

WE CANNOT DO IT ALONE— we need your support!

Join the thousands of people nationwide for Put on Purple (POP) on Friday, May 18, 2012. 

It’s super easy to participate:

1. Wear purple proudly on MAY 18 and don’t you dare be afraid to tell people why!

2. Spread the word! Tell your friends, family, coworkers, employer about PUT ON PURPLE and FORCE them to join you.

3. Consider organizing an office-wide or company-wide participation.

4. Take pictures of your participation and share them with others:

For more information and details, click here: http://www.lupus.org/newsite/pages/Put-On-Purple.html

Let the count down begin!

Be Fabulous! Tell your story and change lives. 

BE A SUPERHERO

Join the Superheroes of TEAM UNBREAKABLE

 Do you live in the Houston Area? Ever wanted to visit Houston? Mark you calendars– Houston is the place to be on MAY 6. As we do it BIG (a la TEXAS STYLE) for our version of the 2012 Walk and Run for LUPUS NOW.

What better team to join than the fabulous and famous,TEAM UNBREAKABLE? We are all about bringing the party to any situation (plus this will be your chance to meet THE DIVA in her purple tutu). Most importantly:

We are UNBREAKABLE in our spirit; UNBREAKABLE in our faith (that things will get better), and UNBREAKABLE in our hope (that one day there will be a cure).

JOIN NOW AND BE A SUPERHERO! 

Want to join the fun on May 6? Click here: http://2012walkforlupusnowhouston.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1000485&lis=1&kntae1000485=4B71976FB7484BA0A44838977731E369&team=4920310

Can’t make out on May 6? You can still help with the fight and donate! Click here: http://2012walkforlupusnowhouston.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1000485&lis=1&kntae1000485=4B71976FB7484BA0A44838977731E369&supId=320053016

BE FABULOUS!

To Ink or Not to Ink??

“There are no specific problems that have been associated with tattoos in lupus patients. Keep in mind the small risk of infection with hepatitis B and C. Occasionally lupus patients have been known to have a reaction to the tattoo dye but this is very rare. Remember, if you are on immunosuppressive medication, this may increase the chances of infection and slow healing of the tattoo area. As with other procedures, it is best done when you are in remission or a welled controlled mild disease state. Consult with your physician prior to getting your tattoo.” —Wise words from the Lupus Foundation of America

It was a regular Saturday early evening. I am in the passenger seat of a big, Texas-style truck (the typical ones you see in all Texas-related commercials). Driving the roaring beast was my dear friend and fellow lupus warrior, Vero. We were two runaways sneaking off towards a town southeast of Houston to the thing that lupus patients are not recommended to do. We were on our way to get inked.

My obsessions with tattoos started as a young Jewish, latina– translation it was never (and still not) accepted by los viejos (e.g., elders). It was a big NO-NO. Tattoos were a big “estas loca!” mentality. I had my first tattoo experience in college when I finally had a design in mind and accomplished what I had identified as a “big event”. I survived college (literally.. there were many mornings when I thought “how the f&*# did I get here?!?”).  Anyways, pre-lupus I had accumulated 5 tattoos with no thoughts of stopping.

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TAT #5 on the rib... ouch

Of course, with the diagnosis of lupus I had worries that my so-called “body mutilation” (as my parents and Dr. Lupus call it) days were over… Fast-forward a couple days before that Saturday evening, Vero and I are discussing a lively topic of “things we should do in 2012”. And you guessed it, my dear fans, getting tattoos dedicated to our batte with lupus was on that list! So, on that lovely Saturday evening, we visit the one-and-only man who can ink my body, Mr. Bill Greenman. For our first lupus-dedicated tattoo, Vero and I decided to get butterflies… and we lived through it.

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Vero's Butterfly on upper mid-back (right on the spinal cord!)

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My Butterfly nicely placed under tat #3

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“This is wanted pain. I paid for this pain” – Vero

WANT TO GET A TAT?
What to expect (here is another one of my famous lists):
1. Do not even dare of getting inked if you do not feel your best. In lupus terms, reschedule your session if you are having a bad, lupus day. You know when you are not feeling your best; listen to your body and bow-out gracefully if necessary.  Do not even think of going to get inked on the day of or day after your methotrexate, Benlysta, or other lupus-treatment intake. Take your steriods HOURS before the session. Are you on anticoagulants (i.e., blood thinners)?? Guess what– you will be bleeding a waterfall with one prick… and maybe you should consider on doing something else to express yourself (e.g.., dye your hair, etc).
2. Pain is not that bad- Consider this, you are in pain 24/7 so you are most likely use to the induced-pain. Taking some tylenol, NSAID, or etc obviously helps… see point #4.
3. Eat before going- You are putting your body through some stress when getting inked, therefore, you will need all the nutritional support. Consider on bringing a little treat to the parlor, just in case you feel light-headed during the session. Passing-out during a session can happen to the best of us, so having a little sugar near-by can help you get through that.
4. What about the painkillers? I am not going to avoid this question. We as lupus patients have access to the best painkillers. I am not going to lie to you, dear fans, I popped in a vicodin pre-session. This eased some of the pain of sitting still for a period of time, and of course, the pain associated with getting inked.
5. Inform your tat artist that you have lupus. He may not know what medically means, but tell him that you are a little more sensitive compared to the average-Joe.
6. When the tat artist is about to take a break from your piece, ask him/her to spray it down with some Bactine (it helps soothe the skin a bit while giving you that anti-bacterial proctection).
7. Post-session: FOLLOW ALL CARE INSTRUCTIONS provided by your artist. This is for your protection, as you know, you are more at risk of picking up any kind of infection.
8. Expect heavy bruising as you heal. Remember, fellow lupus warriors, we bruise so eeasily.  Go ahead, look at your legs, I bet you have some kind of bruise from that “bump” you made with the coffee table. Post-tat, my arm looked like it went through some heavy beating, and technically it did.
9. Aquaphor (or something similar) + Bactine (or something similar) are your best friends.
10. Healing will take longer. Keep caring for it as your body heals, it is worth the wait.

*I shouldn’t have to include the following into my above-list: DO NOT GO TO SOME SHADY-ASS, DIRTY TATTOO PARLOR. Just like you check-up on your doctor and medications- DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE GETTING INKED! If you go to some shady place, you might as well have gotten your tattoo in prison.

WHY DID WE DO IT?
I don’t want to speak on behalf of my beloved, fellow warrior, Vero, but I wanted to know that I could still get inked. Also, there was a control issue… I wanted, for once, to have control over my pain. Yes, I paid for it $$, and yes, everyone who cares for you will be little upset that you put your body through that stress (i.e., Dr. Lupus gave me the greatest lecture/guilt trip EVER when he found my new work). But, to be honest, there was some feeling of accomplishment when Mr. Greenman was working on my piece. I think often when we are in pain and popping pills to try to silence it, we become frustrated; not only because that damn pain never really goes away, but it reminds of us how lupus can take some control away from us.

Vero and I have continued to express our fight through the art of tattoo. Vero is on the path of getting this amazing wolf tattoo on her lower back (near the kidneys) to express her struggle with kidney failure and the continued fight with lupus nephritis.

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The wolf that attack Vero's kidneys

As for me, I have gone through 3 sessions of a leg tattoo to express my love and hate with lupus. I chose to have the Phoenix depict how I rose from the ashes as a new person with new perspectives with my struggle with lupus.

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Phase 2 of the Phoenix Tat on upper left thigh

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Phase 3 of the Phoenix

Now dear fans, I am not saying you should go out and get inked to show your fight. What I am suggesting is to do what you can to take back some of that control that lupus robbed from you. Want to breathe in the ocean waves? Drive to the beach, lather yourself in sunscreen, wear that floppy hat, sport those designer sunglasses and be that diva sitting underneath the umbrella. Want to share your lupus war stories?  Join your local chapter of a lupus support group (i.e., Lupus Foundation, Lupus Research Institute, etc), start tweeting, or better yet, start a blog.  No one is ever going to know what you are going through, but many can relate and many want to hear your story.

Do you have a tattoo dedicated to your fight with lupus or in memory of someone who is fighting or fought with lupus? Don’t be shy and share the art. 

 I look forward to seeing them.

Be Fabulous!

Posted from the Diva on the road