Monday, July 27, 2009

Needles out, meditation in?

In through your nose, out through your mouth. Think about breathing. Count the seconds inhaled.

Today's Denver Post seems to be full of meditative advice to help get us through the day and be just a little healthier. Most of the health section was devoted to how and why breathing can affect the whole body.

But I was a little surprised to see a full article in the Sunday Post about a man with MS who uses meditation instead of medication.

Leonard Barrett is an actor with Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League who - like the rest of us - "looks so normal." From what I read it sounds like he is a great actor who has struggled through the years with exacerbations and dealing with audience members who don't understand why he's a member of PHAMALy.

What I don't understand is why he has chosen meditation over medication. I am a firm believer in the mind-body connection, and feel it is my duty to MS to continue my therapy, exercise daily, and practice as much breathing and yoga as I can handle. But how can a person choose just one?

I know it's different for all of us. I'm doing the best I can and Leonard is doing the best he can. In the article he said the best way for him to meditate is to count 32 counts per inhale and 32 counts per exhale, for three hours per day. I don't know if I'll ever be able to dedicate that amount of time, but it's worth a shot.

My new goal: Try the tactics that seem to be working for others with MS. Who knows the Best Practices better than those with MS?

Day 1: Meditate for at least one-half-hour each day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Technology of Cooling Vests

Cooling down at a cost: how cooling vests saved my life and ruined my undershirt.

This past weekend I volunteered for Bike MS and was amazed at how many cooling options they offered for people with MS. From an RV with air conditioning decorated like a snowy winter wonderland to cooling vests, and everything in between, they really acknowledged how hard it was for bikers and volunteers with MS to be out in the heat.

But I'm left wondering, isn't there a better way to cool down? The cooling vest that I used was a blue vest soaked in ice water. It felt amazing and immediately helped my symptoms, but literally left me sitting in a wet t-shirt. Worse, the blue of the vest and blue volunteer t-shirt left my undershirt permanently stained blue. Sure, a blue-ish shirt isn't the end of the world, but it was an expensive price to pay just to cool down.

There are other types of cooling vests available that, instead of being soaked in ice water, come with pouches to place ice packs in. I tried a neck-wrap that used ice-packs, but after the ice packs had long melted the thick, black material became more of a heating pad. And it was a long, hot walk from my volunteer post back to the supply of ice packs.

Isn't there a better way? I remember at my undergraduate university I met a girl who was making a cooling bra with tubes of water that circulated to keep the bra cool for the woman wearing it. Why is she not making millions of dollars selling this to people with MS?

While I hope there are better options out there, I am excited to say that the current technology is available for free to people with MS who make a certain income or less. If anyone reading this needs cooling gear visit I hope to be blogging again soon about better options, but for now this is the best we've got.

Stay cool and out of the heat!