28
Jun
17

Good reports

It’s been quite a while since I updated things, so here goes…

My most recent blood work was all really good, except for a slightly higher than normal cholesterol level. It is now 20 points lower than last year, however, so I’m happy with it. (I don’t take medication for that; it gave me horrible nightmares.)

Over the last year I switched doctors and now see Dr. Jane Senseney, an internist. After reading through my past history and because my weight and blood pressure had started creeping up a little, she decided that it had been long enough for Medicare to pay for it and ordered a new echocardiogram.

The nice technologist let me watch the screen some of the time while she was performing the test, explaining what I was looking at. I’d like to say I understood all that, but I didn’t. Though it was fascinating to watch I had no idea what normal was supposed to look like, and she wouldn’t actually tell me if it was normal or not.

I got a phone call in a few days with the results, however — while still not normal, the echo showed much improvement over the one two years ago.  I’m happy with that, too!

A few days after the echo was done I also had a follow-up stress test, recommended but not gotten at my last checkup with Dr. Wall. (At the time it was first scheduled I came down with a cold, followed by bronchitis. Coughing didn’t seem conducive to getting a good test, so I had skipped having it done then.)

I can’t walk on a treadmill, thus had the test with nuclear medicine injected into a vein. Images are taken immediately after the injection and again later.

Although each set of images takes less than 15 minutes, you have to wait several hours between batches. What to do with all that extra time? Why, praying for everyone in sight and out of sight, of course. It did indeed make the time go by faster.

Of course the technologists wouldn’t say if this test was normal or not, either. But a nice lady called the very next day to tell me – the stress test was normal. Yay! Really happy with that.

One annoying thing happened last May a year ago: knee pain. One of my curious kitties had pushed a bedroom slipper way under the bed, so I got down on my hands and knees to retrieve it and suddenly felt my left knee begin to ache. I waited a month or so before finally getting an x-ray, which didn’t show anything remarkable, just an old healed tibial fracture (see below). When the pain persisted, eventually Dr. Senseney ordered an MRI of the knee.

That showed a torn meniscus above the spot where in December of 1984 I had fractured the tibia — falling down a flight of ship’s stairs on the Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor. It was the third day of our honeymoon. Long story! See https://scfamilymemories.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/the-weird-week-of-our-wedding/

Of course I had known about the fracture, but not about the meniscus tear. From its appearance on the MRI this was obviously an old injury; kneeling with my weight mostly on that knee had caused it to flare up.

An appointment with orthopedist Dr. Nigel Watt turned out to be delightful, actually. Other than a steroid injection to quiet down the current inflammation, he didn’t recommend any other therapy. And certainly no surgery!

Dr. Watt let me pray for him before I left his office, which was really neat. I actually prayed for two other people before I got out of the building, which was neat too.

So things are going along pretty well, health-wise. I had let the diet slip a little and put five pounds back on, which probably contributed to the small rise in my blood pressure. I do not want to increase any BP medications so I’m returning to a bit stricter adherence to the whole foods, plant-based system. It obviously works for me!

My next checkup with Dr. Wall is the end of July, where I’m sure we’ll discuss the blood work, echocardiogram, stress test, blood pressure and weight… and I’m looking forward to good reports from that visit, too. 🙂

 

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21
Apr
16

Excellent cardiology checkup

EKGnormalMy 6 months FU with cardiologist Dr. Wall was this morning and he was very pleased with my overall improvement. He congratulated me on my progress, saying he didn’t think he himself could keep to the whole foods, plant-based program I’m on – he loves chicken too much! Can’t give up the chicken. He added that he didn’t eat it fried any more, so that was something.

My EKG was normal, BP and pulse were perfect and my weight was down to 169 on their scales (168 on mine, close enough). A year ago I weighed 191 according to their records, so that’s 22 pounds I’ve lost so far. He listened to my heart, neck arteries and lungs, and pronounced them absolutely fine. He told me to keep an eye on my BP, cut down the medicine again if I need to, and come back in 6 months.

He did say he couldn’t order serial echocardiograms as Dr. Esselstyn had suggested because Medicare wouldn’t pay for it unless it’s a medical necessity. Since I was doing so well, he couldn’t really say they were needed.

I asked again if I could pray for him before I left. He took my hand and bowed his head, I prayed and then he hugged me to say thanks for the prayer. I also prayed for his EKG technician today, to have a successful day and successful life. (It was the first time I had met her). They both seemed to really appreciate my concern for them and offering to pray. Then he added with a smile, “You can drop in the door here any time you like.”

In the hallway as I was leaving, I asked him to write down Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s name and he did. I asked him to look up that website and read some of the articles, plus do some added research for his own benefit. “We’ve got to keep you healthy!” I told him. He promised he would, so I left him smiling with “I’m going to check and see if you did, next visit.” Hope he will.

My next checkup is in a few months with family medicine Dr. Shelton, just for a TSH level. Looking for another good report then.

16
Apr
16

Improving steadily

KaleCooked5My blood pressure has steadily improved, so much so that several weeks ago I was able to completely discontinue Lorsartan, switching Metoprolol to mornings at a dose of 25 mg. I probably won’t even need that much longer. My weight is down to 168, my clothes are all feeling pretty baggy and even my shoes are loose.

My taste for salt has nearly disappeared, as well as my desire for caffeinated coffee. Amazing.

Here’s a typical lunch menu: brown rice topped with black beans (or red beans, or lima beans, or black eyed peas), 1/3 of a baked sweet potato, steamed zucchini or yellow squash, fresh sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers, pickled beets, and always kale. Dessert may be half of a fresh apple or banana, perhaps canned pineapple or peaches (in their own juices). Using dehydrated (cooked first, then dried) beans or peas makes meal-time fast and easy.

In addition to eating it at all meals, cooked kale has become my snack of choice since Dr. Esselstyn’s suggestion. I really like it so that is not a problem at all. Sometimes I substitute turnips with roots or collards, but kale cooks in 10 minutes in a little boiling water, which makes it preferable for me.

I look forward to seeing Dr. Wall on 4/21 and hearing his comments!

17
Mar
16

Even better

In the last 9 days I have lost 3 more pounds and my blood pressure has improved enough that I could cut another dose of medicine in half – I was taking 50 mg. of Metoprolol at bedtime, now taking 25 mg. I had already been able to cut the morning Losartan dose in half, from 50 mg. to 25 mg.

At this rate of improvement, soon I may be able to discontinue more medication.  Metoprolol helps control tachycardia, which has been improving but is not completely gone. My resting pulse rate climbs from about 70 in the mornings to 80 or so by evening – it used to go over 90, so it is better.

I am convinced that this current improvement is due to certain changes I made last week, on the recommendation of Dr. Esselstyn, who has called me twice in the last several weeks. Here’s that story, as emailed to my praying friends on Tuesday, March 8th.

dr-esselstyn-university-of-central-florida-800“Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of Cleveland Clinic called me again and we talked for about 30 minutes. (See http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/books/prevent-reverse/about-the-book/)

The first call I got from him was a week before that, in response to a question I had posted on his website looking for research articles. I was asking if they had done any research into his diet helping patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension.

It seems they were just beginning to do that research – almost all their patients through the years have had coronary artery disease and/or peripheral artery disease.

He said I am only the second patient with pulmonary arterial hypertension who is trying his diet plan (and also improving on it), who has contacted him about it. The other one is a woman from Canada and he is documenting her progress. So far she has improved from a stage 3 PH diagnosis to a stage 1, a tremendous improvement.

As I type this, I am munching on a small bowlful of steamed kale – he suggested I eat kale or some other dark leafy green 6x a day (along with whatever else I’m eating) and gave me all the medical criteria / research for doing that. It helps clear out the damaged inflammatory crud from the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. I need to get some balsamic vinegar to sprinkle on it, which will enhance the taste/effects of the kale, he said.

He spent some time going over foods to eat and foods to avoid. He did say I definitely need to continue losing weight, thus I need to re-arrange how much of the various things I eat until my weight is optimal for my height.

He also said I should not drink anything with caffeine in it, because that damages the lining of blood vessels too. I had already cut way back on regular coffee and will try to cut back some more. Decaf coffee is fine, he said, so I’ll still get the taste of coffee which is what I like.

In the previous phone call he had asked if my doctors were doing serial echocardiograms to measure the blood pressure in my lungs. I said No, and told him my next FU with the cardiologist isn’t for several months yet and I’ll definitely discuss doing that with him. He was interested in receiving any documentation of improved pressures with this diet, if I was willing for my doctors here to send it to him in Cleveland. Which I am.

He invited me to participate in the intensive one-day patient training workshop they have once a month in Ohio. It’s limited to only 10 or 12 people from around the world and he would like me to be one of them sometime in the near future. I told him the problem for me is cost – it’s expensive, $950 or more just for the daylong event. He did ask me to talk to his secretary about it, that they do have payment plans.

But whether I come or not, he asked if I would stay in touch with him monthly and report on my progress. He gave me his home phone number and email address so I can give him regular reports, ask him any questions I have, etc. He is a fascinating doctor, very interested in his patients and their individual cases. So different from what we’re used to.

He was sniffling a little as we talked, so I asked if I could do something for him, before we hung up? Certainly, he said, here I am – what it is?

I said I’d like to pray for him, if he was willing. He said he was willing and so I did. I prayed for him to feel better today, but also for his practice, his work with patients, and his heart – because he cares so much for his patients. He thanked me profusely and we hung up. It was an interesting morning, to say the least.”

Really it has been an interesting month!

16
Feb
16

Doing well, feeling good, and going about doing good

chowderSince taking authority over my eating lifestyle, observing and following the advice of physicians at the Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere, I have discovered increased energy and stamina, lower blood pressure, no shortness of breath, improved lab work in every area, and I have lost 17 pounds so far.

Some medications have been eliminated altogether – like the one I took for muscle and joint pain for 50 years! Or reduced substantially, like the blood pressure medicines I’ve taken for 20 years.

There’s a post from one of my other blogs (see link below) that explains a bit more, but in a nutshell my diet now is whole foods / plant-based. It includes lots of veggies and fruit of all kinds, including the ones I have always loved like potatoes! Just more of them.

These days I never eat meat or fish, seldom to never eat dairy products, eggs or nuts, and only occasionally use a little olive oil. I am never hungry, don’t have to count calories and can eat all I want of the things I do eat.

My doctors say that within a year or so, I may not need any blood pressure medicines. I’m really looking forward to that! Here’s the post from “Talk With Bette” last fall:

New way of living
16 Oct 2015

Several months ago my family doctor suggested I read some of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s online material about a whole foods / plant-based diet and consider changing the way I eat. I had just been diagnosed with an incurable blood vessel disease affecting heart and lungs (pulmonary hypertension resulting in congestive heart failure). It was an unpleasant diagnosis to say the least.
(Click to continue) https://talkwithbette.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/new-way-of-living/

09
Dec
15

5 years cancer-free

It’s nearly 5 years … yesterday I had my 6-month FU with Dr. Bajaj who said I was doing very well, that from his standpoint everything looked normal and healthy. He said I could just come back once a year and scheduled me for an appointment in December 2016.

Before I left, I asked if I could pray for him and he said yes. So I took his hand, prayed a simple prayer for the Lord to bless his family, his practice, and he himself, to meet every need that he had in Jesus’ name. He had told me several years ago that he is not religious, although he was raised in a Hindu culture.

He seemed sincerely grateful for the prayer – smiling, hugging me, patting my shoulder before I left his office, and saying Merry Christmas.

I have grown bolder these days, now I don’t think twice about asking someone, May I pray for you? So far, 99.9% of people say Yes and seem really grateful. Thank you, Father, for many opportunities!

Bette's Journal

I had a good 6-month oncology checkup a few weeks ago, now celebrating 4 years cancer-free! Dr. Bajaj congratulated me, although I hadn’t really given it much thought. The only abnormality remaining on my blood work was a touch of anemia, red blood cell count just below the normal level. That has gradually improved over the years, as expected.

McLeodHospitalMedicalMile

The McLeod Cancer Center is now in their beautiful new facility, in front of and adjacent to the original McLeod Tower, connected to the parking garage by an elevated glass-walled walkway. (Look at the far left edge of the image.)

Doctors, labs, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and research center, all are now located in the same building. Very attractive and very convenient, considering the ailment they are designed to treat is quite inconvenient, to say the least.

I’m still spending a great deal of my time reading online news from around…

View original post 83 more words

11
Sep
15

Pulmonary hypertension

PulmonaryHypertensionIt was just an ordinary echocardiogram. There are many different measurements, and diagnosis is based on certain readings – size of heart chambers, pressure within the chambers, etc.

Dr. Sonfield, the surgeon, had ordered it in 2/11 before inserting the Portacath (central line) into my right shoulder for chemotherapy.

Someone, I don’t know who, wrote in pen across the bottom of the printed report, “tell patient it’s okay”… and so I had the Portacath installed, went through chemo, surgery, radiation, etc.

But it wasn’t okay. That echocardiogram wasn’t okay.

Nobody ever told me that the individual parts of the echo (many different readings) were nowhere near normal. And neither was the official diagnosis at the bottom, Moderate Pulmonary Hypertension. Dr. Boulware had read the echo, but he wasn’t one of my own doctors. None of my doctors ever mentioned that diagnosis to me. I was never followed up for it or treated for it.

Earlier this year (2015), wondering why I hadn’t fully recovered my energy after all the chemo / radiation / surgery – plus being treated for hypothyroidism, probably caused by thyroid damage from all of the above – I asked for a referral to a cardiologist.

Soon thereafter I saw Dr. Bryan Wall at Pee Dee Cardiology, who ordered a stress test, EKG, and 2 week Holter monitor. (He did NOT order an echocardiogram, however.)

Those tests didn’t show anything that we didn’t already know about: hypertension, mild congestive heart failure, diastolic dysfunction, all of which I’d had for some years.

He said the next step would be a heart cath, and left it up to me whether to go ahead with that. I said I’d think about it. He didn’t change my BP medications or even suggest a regular FU with him, just said to call for an appt. if I needed to.

Well, I was still tired all the time and still puzzled as to why. I made up my mind to find out.  That day the Holy Spirit prompted me to pull out all my medical records and read them, one by one. (Back in 2011 I had requested a copy of the echo for my files, which I had simply filed away and didn’t read – bad mistake.)

And that’s when I found that echo report and got the really bad surprise. Diagnosis: Moderate Pulmonary Hypertension.

I started reading up on Pulmonary Hypertension, checking websites from Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, American Heart Association, and others. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Pulmonary_Hypertension_Causes_Symptoms_Diagnosis_Treatment

It was enlightening, to say the least. Pulmonary hypertension is an incurable and sometimes fatal blood vessel disease of the heart and lungs.

The vessels leading from the heart to the lungs are narrowed, not allowing the lungs to get enough blood to be re-oxygenated. The heart has to work harder, thus the heart chambers enlarge and the pressure inside the lungs increases.

Now I understood my symptoms. What I didn’t understand was why not a single physician treating me had ever so much as mentioned this condition. I went through stages of anger and fear – life expectancy from diagnosis to death is pretty short, usually. It had already been 4 years.

And then forgiveness, for the person who wrote that scribbled echo note “Okay” when it wasn’t, to the surgeon who ordered the echo and probably didn’t really read it, to the family physician who got a copy and probably didn’t read it either, etc., etc.

My next regular doctor’s appointment was soon, a FU with Dr. Bajaj (cancer doctor). I took the echo report and showed it to him. He was taken aback – he’d never seen it. He read it over carefully, then said it could have been a false positive but just to be sure he ordered a new echocardiogram.

Although there was no specific diagnosis line at the bottom of the new report, the individual abnormal readings were worse than the first one. Dr. Bajaj sent me back to see Dr. Wall.

This time Dr. Wall’s attitude was quite different – he took this diagnosis very seriously indeed. He and I have discussed the various causes and treatment options, the best place to begin, how to take care of myself at home, and next steps after that.

First thing he suggested was to switch the HCTZ I’d been taking to Lasix twice a day to eliminate what he said was probably 10 lbs. of excess fluid. So far I have lost at least that much and already feel better.

He also agreed with my new family physician’s (Heather Shelton) recommendations to change my diet to whole foods, no meat, no dairy. They recommended I read up on Dr. Esselstyn’s work at the Cleveland Clinic. http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/ The diet he recommends has been proven successful in reversing and preventing blood vessel disease. Reversing! That’s a good goal indeed – and so I took their advice.

So far so good. I don’t really miss the meat. I’ve been eating lots of beans, peas and leafy green vegetables, canned, fresh and frozen. I even bought canned collards which I’d never tried before. I re-cooked them about a half-hour with slices of green bell peppers and they were excellent. No strong taste or odor – the pepper slices eliminates those.

Paul and Laura gave me several jars of dehydrated beans and peas to try recently, which cook fast (less than 30 minutes) and taste delicious. I’m going to order a good supply to keep on hand. These are much quicker to prepare than the old-fashioned dried beans I was used to and I can order other kinds of veggies too.  http://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/Dehydrated-Beans_c_2.html

Beets, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, peppers, potatoes (red-skinned and sweet potatoes), plus fresh or canned fruit added to most meals brings the protein and calorie count up to good levels. I do still eat bread but not very much. I quit eating cookies, now just eat graham crackers for occasional desserts.

Dr. Wall also ordered a sleep study which showed mild sleep apnea. My O2 level dropped to 84% for a couple of minutes, otherwise was okay. I sleep fine, don’t snore, only had a couple of short apneic episodes during the study, not too bad overall. I’m awaiting a Rx for CPAP equipment, which may help some with morning tiredness. I’m certainly willing to try it –  that will add one more weapon to my arsenal.

Dr. Wall said that once we had all that under way, the next person I could see would be a pulmonologist, who would probably order a right heart cath to confirm the diagnosis. That will depend on how I respond to Lasix, new diet, CPAP, so it will be a few weeks.

So far only a few people outside my immediate family know about this latest health adventure, those who believe the way I do – John 10:10 – that the enemy is still out there, roaming around looking for somebody to steal from, kill and destroy. And friends who believe the way I do, that Father God wants us healed, whole, normal, and that we have the command, the authority and the ability to kick the enemy in the teeth and make him leave us alone.

“Speaking – are you still speaking to your body?” Dr. Bajaj asked me one day. Yes! Yes, I am! And I am still winning the battles. This one included.




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Bette’s Journal

Bette Cox 2010

Christ is the "Big C" in my life!

That was told to me by a good friend recently, and it's so very true.

Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

I believe Jesus. I hope you do too.

I have one request of other believers reading this journal:

Agree with me that the invader will shrink, shrivel, die and disappear from my body, whatever method the Lord uses to accomplish that.

Thanks in advance.