One of the things that marks my current job as different from my last is the preponderance of administratively condoned (enforced) social events.  They are, thankfully, on site.  I’ve attended them, even though they usually require hauling myself around a hilly and pedestrian congested part of my city.  I haven’t attended all of them, but many.  I’ve attended even when I couldn’t eat anything there, since these are work parties and the only way to mark a party at work from a meeting or other gathering is to add festive food.

We had one such event yesterday.  Thankfully, it was a Friday.  This is a good thing since for me, the parties are often physically difficult.  Even when they don’t require walking a distance that is a “nice walk” to everyone else but a death march to me, they involve doing physically taxing things like standing for a long time in a crowded and not well temperature controlled room.  I often feel unwell during and after.  Yesterday’s was a very short walk, just down the hall.  Of course I’ll go!  A chance to show my face and get counted as prosocial without having to worry about getting hurt just getting there is not something to pass up.

The invite announced that this would be a halloween themed event, including snacks, games, and pumpkin painting.  Well, at least I can do the pumpkin painting, so that’s nice, I thought.

I get there and I’m immediately greeted by two women who I know and am very distantly friendly with.  This distance is not my choice, it’s just there.  I’d like ways to move through it to more friendly, it’s nice to have friends at work.  But this is not happening.  We don’t work together much at all, and when we do it’s at quite big events where there isn’t much space or time for interacting.  So we’re politely friendly work people, not friends.  “Hey, Dyspatient wore something festive!” they announce, seeing my rust/orange sweater that I wore yesterday.  I made some remark that I intended to be nice, then pointed out that other people (including them) were wearing black…the sentiment was that not enough were.  Ok.  Then they moved off to more exciting and fun people who they were actually friends with.  I said hi to the few people I did have a history of chatting with, a very small set.  I stood on the edges of several conversations and tried to jump in…now please keep in mind that while I can be socially awkward, I am not generally. I’m funny, empathetic, a good listener, and more or less outgoing.  I’m not the life of the party,  but certainly not the death of it either.  I am, however, often not feeling well these days and standing and chatting boisterously as I used to is not an option.  I can do it for a few minutes but then I have to sit down and quiet down a bit.  Probably with a strange look on my face on account of the pain, dizziness, or nausea.   I think this is starting to come across to my coworkers as anti-social.  I mention the strange look on my face because I think that my countenance often betrays my not feeling well.  I have what I call the opposite of a poker face.  I’ve had friends and acquaintances remark that my general state of mind if not actual emotions are quite apparent on my face.  I try to keep this under wraps but it is just the way I am.  Big eyes.  I think that’s the key part of it.  If eyes are the window of the soul, then mine are bay windows offering a panoramic view of pain more often than not these days.  That makes people uncomfortable, even if they interpret it correctly…which I think few of them do.

So, now what?  I thought.  Now, under normal circumstances, I’d go browse the food table, maybe strike up a conversation with some unattached person who is over looking at the same food I am.  Except browsing the food is an exercise in futility for me.  Games?  The game was “pin the nose on the jack o’lantern”, and to be honest, not very popular.  I watched a person get blindfolded and spun around and though “oh hell no”.  Ah, pumpkin painting.  There, I can do that.  No one else is though.  Well, I’ll break ground on it.  Sure, what the hell.  One of the two remotely friendly coworkers saw me making my way to the pumpkins…. “Yeah!  Paint a pumpkin!” she called encouragingly.  Why not.

I’ll tell you why not.  Because I was the only person painting mother flipping pumpkins.

I’m referring to it as “awkward pumpkin painting”.  I was chatty with people who came by, suggesting that they also paint one.  One young intern either came over or was dispatched to the pumpkin painting station.  She was clearly a bit uncomfortable, I could tell because she’s a blusher.  We chatted while she painted herself a minimalist jack o’lantern themed pumpkin, then she was gone and it was back to just me.  A woman who is my boss’s boss’s boss (and the boss of everyone there) came by and said “Ah, you’re artistic….I can’t even draw”.  I said “Oh no, I can’t either.  The trick is you just have to not care.”  No pumpkin painting for her.

Well, I have two nicely painted pumpkins out of the deal.  I can’t shake the feeling that these events are becoming more and more of a chore though.  I’m inclined to bring a book to the next one, I mean since we’re reliving scenes from junior high school, I may as well fully embrace the part and return to being that friendly but quiet kid in the corner with her nose in a book.



Got my results from 23 and me yesterday.  Me and Mr. Patient did.  Ancestry:  I am soooooo European.  99.7% European to be precise.  And apparently more Irish and British than Italian, which is a big “wtf?!”  Although I’ve always known that the Italian side of my family doesn’t look typically “Italian”.  Guess that remote little North-western village really isn’t in the same gene pool.

map and graph of european ancestry

Mr. Patient, on the other hand, has a speck of the Tribe in there.  Actually, two tribes.  Ashkenazi and some strange mitochondrial bits that are very uncommon in most places, except in a few populations including Native American.

My health risk profile is pretty good, if not really on point.  For example, I have genotypes associated with lower risk of having Migraines and Endometriosis.  Ha!  Ha, says my body.  I’ll show you migraines and endo!  Higher risks of selective IgA deficiency (not surprising given all the thrush infections), stroke, sarcoidosis, gout, narcolepsy, and alcohol dependence among other things.  The stroke risk gives me pause.  I really do need to quit smoking.  I don’t know if if’s from having worked on a vascular unit, from my grandmother dying from stroke complications, or from the nasty history of vascular bullshittery on my paternal grandfather’s side, but I do worry about stroke.  More than cancer in fact.

There’s an EDS group on the site, so I’ll be checking my data with them.  So far, 23 and me doesn’t do any data analysis for EDS….which I think is bad on them.  I know that there’s not a lot on some of the subtypes, but I thought type IV was genotyped.  You’d think they could map that.

we apologize for the inconvenience…

As I continue to work with a chronic illness, I am developing a real phobia of the term “inconvenience”.  On the subway, “inconvenience” means impassable obstacles such as a steep mountain of stairs between you and the street.  At work, it translates into no food, pain, migraines, fatigue.

I was thinking last week about what I would paint or draw if I could paint or draw.  It would be a series of dyadic scenes, one side is “what you see” and the other is “what I see”.  Keyboard and desk on one side; torture device on the other.  Rambling path through a hilly, sunlit park with people on bicycles, babies in carriages, and children on roller skates on one side; scorched, Escheresque hellscape crawling with demons on the other.

I’m thinking about this today because we have a standing meeting that was rescheduled from its usual standing time of my work start time to a half hour earlier.  It is also on the other side of a steep, cobblestoned hill (the short path involving slippery marble steps…the long path involving hordes of clueless undergrads, perpetual sidewalk construction, and other “inconveniences”).  Our receptionist also scheduled me for a back to back, so I have a meeting at my office (on the other side of the hill) set for exactly when the prior meeting ends.  Not ok, since the prior meeting always goes long and it takes me twice as long as my colleagues to walk back to our building after.  And if I want lunch today, I will have to drag that with me all the way, hoping that it is not getting too warm for the hour and a half or more that it’s not refrigerated (remember, my soft food/liquid diet = soups and puddings).  So I guess it’s to be pain and fasting for me today.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

discomfort, hurt, and harm

There is a difference.  I found the tilt table test uncomfortable, but it didn’t hurt or harm me.  I find that most IVs hurt, but usually don’t harm me.  But what about when you’re the one giving the care?  How do you know the difference between when you’ve done something that your patient finds uncomfortable, painful, or harmful?  Does your patient know?  I’m guessing that if you’re lucky, you have a very aware and articulate patient who can distinguish between unpleasant sensations vs. painful sensations and that you know enough as a clinician to be able to discern whether any of those sensations (or signs, like their blood pressure plummeting) means that you are now actually harming someone.

You don’t get all of those potential channels with an animal, and when you’re a pet owner who is trying to take care of your pet, you really are just left guessing based on how your pet is reacting.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  A good friend of mine has two sick, elderly kitties that she’s caring for at home.  Both get oral meds and special diets, but one also gets subcutaneous fluids which my friend has to administer at home.  Her cat grumbles throughout, but towards the end, according to my friend, the cat kicks it up a notch and my friend is horrified, worrying that what she’s doing to the cat has crossed from uncomfortable to painful or harmful.  And so starts the freaking out.

We’ve both been looking on line for information on how to do this procedure on a “difficult” cat.  Not unholy hell beast, not like my cat for example, but on a cat that is not as sedate and chill as all the cats that you find in majority (entirety?) of “how to” videos.  So many of the videos focus on things like how to deal with the infusion set or how to place the needle.  Admittedly, those are important factors but there are also the not trivial issues of “how to calm the cat”, “how to get the cat to sit still”, “how to gauge if your cat is just ‘grousing’ vs. telling you that something is wrong”.

I’m guessing that there aren’t videos on this because the people who make the videos choose the calm cats to (a) show how “easy” it can be and (b) to allow them to focus on the stuff like infusion set and needle placement.  I do wish someone would make some on the other issues though.  Anyone who has had to deliver medicine or care to a feline at home knows that response to your cat’s apparent distress will make a big difference in how successfully you can administer treatment.  My own cat, for example, acts like any constraint is killing her.  She will fight you wildly if you try to hold her down for more than a few seconds.  E.g., this morning we had a nice combing and catnip session, after which I forgot to clean the fuzz out of her comb.  I went back to my desk only to notice a few minute later that she was doing something with the comb…oh crap, she was eating the hairball.  I immediately start trying to startle her away from the comb by making sounds at her, only to realize that it’s too late for this approach when she looks up at me with wide, freaked out eyes and a huge hairball hanging out of her mouth.

I go to her, grab her, and hold her with my forearms while I try to pluck the hairball out of her mouth with my hands.  Not working because she’s writhing and bucking, windmilling her paws at my arms, and snapping her head up and away from my fingers.  “Need some help!” I call to Mr. Patient and present the wriggling cat, still wedged between my elbows to him as he comes over.  The cat greets him with more writhing, bucking, and snapping.  But she’s out of luck.  Mr. Patient grabs her face and picks the hairball off her lip.  I release the cat and she bolts from the room.

brown tabby cat sitting under a coffee table

Try grabbing me now!

She comes back a few minutes later, and this is how I know we have made some progress with this cat.  When we first got her, anything  that startled her was sufficiently traumatic that she would hide for hours after.  Now, she recovers faster.  Although note the pose in the picture to the left.  She’s back, but she’s barricaded herself under the coffeetable.

Admittedly, I would not have approached her like that to give her a medication.  Had I not made the alarming noises at the cat to start with, I might have had an extra second or two between grabbing her and her turning into the hellbeast. But those extra seconds wouldn’t have been worth much if the medication were anything that requires time to administer, like fluids.

For your amusement and edification, I’m sharing this gem I came across in researching how to give fluids to a difficult cat.

I also thought I’d share the following tip, although I haven’t heard back from my friend on whether it worked or not.  I started out by noting that it’s tough to know how to interpret your cat’s “feedback”, so toward that end, I recommended my friend try a “sham” infusion with her cat.  That is, set everything up as if she were going to inject and infuse, but don’t actually place the needle.  Just poke the cat, then keep her still for the time she’d usually have to stay still for the infusion.  If the cat’s grumbling pattern is low and grousy then kicking it up a notch toward the end, we have reasonable evidence to conclude that the escalation in vocalization is not pain or harm but the “discomfort” of running out of patience.

Day 3

It’s Saturday.  Three days in to my 5 day weekend.  A little sad that it’s half over.  Mr. Patient is out getting groceries and I’m turning some of my pumpkin angel food cupcakes into bread pudding.  The cakeyness of the cupcakes is questionable.  They are tasty, but they have more of a quickbread/muffin quality than cake one, so they seemed suitable for conversion.

I don’t have recipe yet, since it’s still cooking and filling the house with the most amazing cinnamon and nutmeg smells, by the way.  I threw some of the apples and apple “syrup” into it to, skipping sugar (ok, a few crumbles of brown sugar on top but not the cup and half or whatever of white sugar that my old bread pudding recipe called for).  Also, no half cup of butter.  Not if I want this food to empty out of my stomach.   I used a scant teaspoon of butter to grease the casserole pan that I’m cooking in, a must or the “bread” will weld to the sides.  So that’s about 4 grams of fat just from the wee bit of butter.  Meaning this is not something I can eat large amounts of at once.  I try to keep the fat content low since higher fat foods tend to slow gastric emptying.

Such a tragedy that I’m lactose intolerant and now fat intolerant.  I used to LOVE butter.  I am told that when I was a child, we’re talking highchair level kid, my mom once left a stick of butter within my reach and when she went to use it, discovered that I had grabbed it and was eating it like it was a candy bar.  Yes, my slow break up with butter has been painful, but I will survive.

Here’s what the “bread” pudding looks like in the oven.  Probably could use a bit more milk and egg, but we’ll see.

small casserole dish of bread pudding in oven

5 days

I’m on day two of a mini vacation I’m taking this week.  I took two days off in advance of the long weekend, giving me a nice extra long weekend.

Yesterday, Mr. Patient and I went to even older historic towne up north of ye olde historic northeastern city.  Hint: it being October, this was a very seasonal time to visit said historic towne.  I packed a cooler with low fat lactaid milk, crackers, and low fat ground chicken chicken salad.  I also found a shop that made amazing soy chai lattes.  And some research ahead of time turned up a seafood place where I was able to at least eat some grilled tuna (minus the vegetables and the overdone roasted potatoes…Mr. Patient ate that).  I had a bit of heartburn last night, but it wasn’t terrible.  I think it was more chai induced than fish.

We planned a short trip, so there was no big disappointment when I didn’t last a whole day.  We took the walking very slowly, just ambled around like the old couple I hope we get to turn into.  Rested on benches a lot.  Got my cards read, nothing remarkable although he did say “you’re having a hard time keeping weight on, aren’t you?” although my wardrobe probably gives that away.  Bought some catnip that is apparently catcrack, according to my cat’s reaction to it.  It’s going to have to be kept in a tightly closed drawer unless we want her to have herself a little kitty bacchanal right here on the living room carpet.

It was really nice to get out and about.  I planned it carefully, including the timing.  I knew I’d probably be a little sore and tired the day after, so we did it on day one to give me plenty of resting time after.

And today, I am.  Tired.  I think my Fall allergies are kicking up a bit because I’m feeling a bit dizzy, although who knows.  Could be blood pressure or migraine too.  So many reasons to be dizzy.  And so I’m sticking close to home today.  I decided to do a little baking.  I had read some recipes for “two ingredient pumpkin cake” (e.g. this recipe, or this other recipe), and thought I’d give it a try, with angel food cake of course due to the low fat requirement of my stomach.

I Just did a set as cupcakes and boy are they good.  I already ate one and they’ve only been out of the oven for 15 minutes.  Here’s my version of the recipe.

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Apple “Compote”

Low fat!


1 box angel food cake mix

Pumpkin pie spice to taste:

1 & ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

A dash ground clove (because I like clove…most pumpkin pie recipes do not include this in the spice set)

1 can of pureed pumpkin

Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 350°F. In extra-large glass or metal bowl, beat cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 1 minute. Spoon into ungreased cupcake tins, fill about ½ way.  I used extra large cupcake tins and could’ve gotten 10 full sized cupcakes out of it if I hadn’t tried to fill an 11th cup (d’oh!).

Bake about 25 minutes or until crust is dark golden brown and cracks are dry. If you use cupcake liners, you can skip this next bit:  Immediately turn pan upside down onto upside-down metal measuring cups in a large casserole pan. Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool. Loosen cake from side of cups with knife.

No Cook Apple Compote:
1 – 3 apples (I used 1 granny smith/green apple and two gala apples)

1 medium fresh lemon

¼ cup of brown sugar

Ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to taste (least on the nutmeg)

Wash, peel, and core apples.  Chop coarsely and place in a medium sized non-metal mixing bowl.  Seed and juice lemon, add to apples tossing with a wooden or plastic spoon or spatula.  Add spices and sugar, and coat apples by mixing gently with spoon or spatula.  Refrigerate.  Use quickly for drier compote, the longer the apples sit in the sugar/lemon juice mixture, the more liquid they will release.  You can cook the mixture too if you want to break down the apples a little more but you’ll get something that is more syrupy and mushy.

Result?  I realized after I made them and took pictures that the apple bits, if cut up carefully in advance, could be arranged to make jack o’lantern faces on top of the cupcakes.  Ah, well, this is why Martha Stewart is Martha and I’m not.  Next time.  And there will be a next time.

Photo of pumpkin angelfood cupcake with apples on top

Next time, I’m putting more apple on!

I took a picture of the inside too, so you can see the crumb texture. I may try this again with a bit of flour added to see if it makes for a finer crumb. Even without that addition, it is quite good.

Photo of inside of pumpkin angel food cupcake

A rather coarse crumb to this version.

the usual

“we usually just get pizza” my boss told me of food for student workers.  We were discussing the transition of supervising student workers to me, temporarily, since our staff member who currently does this is leaving next week for another position.  I had told my boss that I wanted to have a meeting with the student workers to talk about the transition, scheduling needs, work priorities, and things like my sick policy and my health.  More on that later.

Back to food.  I am not one to think that all work events must have food, not anymore at least.  Too difficult to figure out what I’d eat, so it doesn’t come to mind as a meeting essential.  But my boss raised the idea and offered to spring for it.  Ok.  So food.  “Can I do something other than pizza?” I asked.  “Sure….”  Although it wasn’t on my mind consciously at that moment, I remembered later that one of our workers has Celiac Disease and needs gluten free.  Not only is this a known requirement, but it’s one that the school has screwed up on…hosting events that she’s required to attend without providing an option.  And then there’s her mom.  Her mom called our office one quiet summer day and we ended up talking for over an hour about a number of things, including how discouraged it made her daughter to go to school events with no option for food…while everyone else eats.  And lastly, there’s my own recent experience with being told I had to go to work events which were food-centric (“must attend all social events” said one work document addressed to me this past year) but where I could not eat anything.  It sucks and I’m damned if I’m going to pass that crappy non-option on to someone else.

And now I’m wondering…what to get for food.  Or just dispense with the food thing entirely.

It is nearly Halloween, so some kind of Halloween themed food or candy seems appropriate.  But  here’s the thing.  I am woefully ignorant of gluten free options.  Having determined through both empirical and lab test means that I am not gluten intolerant, and having not hosted in a looooong time, I really don’t give it much thought in my life.  And so I am asking you, dear reader, if you know of easy, tasty gluten free snacks or food, let me know!  I’m thinking I’d rather stay away from cooking.  I have nothing against the idea, but with people of this age, home cooked is not usually their favorite option.  Also, there are liability issues I think with bringing in your own, homemade food.  So I was thinking maybe Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods had some good gluten free baked goods or other goodies that I could pick up and bring in but again, given my ignorance, I wouldn’t know what’s good and what’s not in the panoply of pre-packaged gluten free options out there.

I welcome your ideas, recommendations, and suggestions to make this an inclusive (and tasty) event.

Now, as I said, the agenda is going to include my health.  This is because one of the student workers has made a bit of a habit of asking me stupid questions or making insensitive remarks to me that relate to my health.  Like asking me at top volume in an office full of people if I’m going to be out “again” next week.  When I tried to dodge his question, he kept pressing.  Finally, I asked him why exactly he wanted to know and he said he was just wondering if he was going to have to cover for me.  Me.  A full time professional staff member with very specialized skills.  Him, a relatively unskilled undergrad who spends a lot of work time watching TV shows on his mobile devices.  Yeah, you go on and just try to “cover” for me, boyo.  I’m more than a pulse in a chair.  Most recently, I came upon him watching TV at work and enlisted his assistance in clorox wiping down tables and desks.  It’s a busy time of year, we have students in and out all day.  Many of them are taking exams with us, and given the time of year, many of them are taking their exams sick – we had one who had to run out in the middle of a test to go puke (a stomach bug’s been going around up here).  And then there is the non-negligible number of students we serve who have chronic health problems that affect their immune systems.  I preface with all this to give you a sense of WHY I think that wiping down the surfaces with clorox wipes is a good idea.  So, we’re wiping.  I do a bunch of desks and keyboard/mouse sets and this student is slowly wiping a conference table. I finish up and say “here, I’ll help” (it’s a big table).  There are several piles of eraser debris and I hit them with the wipe and they scatter and smear across the table and onto my pants.  “Oh, gross, eraser crud” I say, wiping at the bits with my bare hand.  The student stops wiping and says “‘Gross?’  Are you a germ-phobe?”

Oh he got a bit of a talking to.  I mentioned this all to my boss at our meeting and said that I wanted to have a talk with him.  She said “Do it.  Set him straight.  And let him know that I want everything wiped down every day too…”

So the meeting’s agenda will include the topics of invisible disability in the work place, how not to make an insensitive idiot of yourself when dealing with a coworker with a disability, and what keeping a “safe, healthy, and welcoming” office means.  Can’t wait.  😉

even better!

Tried another pumpkin pudding recipe since the previous one, while tasty, had some texture issues.   This is an adapted version of one I found online, I increased the cornstarch; necessary if you don’t want “soft set” pudding.  I also increased the cinnamon, added ginger, and used some brown sugar instead of white and I heartily recommend that you experiment with the spices until you find a mix that is to your liking.  The texture is great.  The eggs add a richness and tempering them before adding them into the mixture prevents you from getting cooked eggy bits in your final product.  Ideally, this should be made in a pot with a curved inner surface, but if you don’t own one (like me), just make sure you scrape the inside lower “corners” of your pot every so often while cooking, otherwise the cornstarch and egg can glob up down there and that’s not so good.

lower fat, lactose free pumpkin pudding (2)


¾ cup sugar (I used ½ cup white sugar and ¼ cup of brown sugar)

¼ cup cornstarch

3 cups low fat, lactose free milk

1 cup canned pumpkin

4 large egg yolks, beaten in a medium bowl

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 dash nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp salt


1. Combine pumpkin, spices, salt, and vanilla in a bowl.  Whisk to distribute spices thoroughly and uniformly.   Hang onto that whisk, it’s going to come in handy.

2. Combine sugar, cornstarch and milk in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir frequently until pudding heats up, then stir constantly when it just starts to boil.  Cook for 3 minutes at a low or near boil.  Turn off heat.

3. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of milk mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. This “tempers” the egg yolks so they don’t cook in your pudding pot.  Then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook on a medium heat stirring constantly for about 1 to 2 minutes.

4.  Whisk in pumpkin, then stir with wooden spoon until the mixture is heated through.

5. Pour into serving bowls and chill.  Takes several hours for the pudding to set.

What can you do?

I know some friends and family are hopelessly unhelpful when it comes to supporting someone with a chronic illness, but a great many more are just unaware of what to do.  If you’ve never been there, you don’t know.  And you probably don’t want to seem like you’re imposing, or insulting someone.  And sometimes, your offers are rebuffed for what seems like no good reason.  I’ve been on both sides of this and I know it can be tricky to navigate.  Here are some tips I want to pass on.

Keep in mind that help or support needs to be really and truly freely offered and given.  Take dinner.  Helpful if you know the person’s dietary restrictions and needs and can truly abide by them. Offer, kindly and without strings, to make and bring something that can be refrigerated or frozen.  What is less helpful is an offer to invite yourself over for dinner, or invite your loved one to dinner.  They may not be up for entertaining or being entertained, and if your offer comes with that string attached, they may refuse.

I’ve long wished for a way to give a service like PeaPod as a gift.  For readers outside of the area where you’d know what that is, it’s a service that lets you buy your groceries from a local supermarket online and then arrange to either pick them up bundled and paid for, or have them delivered.  My god I would love the latter.  Probably there is a way to do this, and if anyone figures it out, tell me.  I have a dear friend I’d love to do this for.  Not as a “I’m buying all your groceries forever” kind of gesture, but as a “hey, I set you up with a gift certificate that pays for 4 deliveries of your groceries so you don’t have to use up your resources staggering through the supermarket”.

Pet care.  Pets can end up being affected by their owners’ illnesses too.  I myself have forgone having a dog for years now because I know I do not have the energy that it requires to care for one.  Sometimes, you had the pets before you got so sick.  Sometimes, you need the pets for the love and comfort they provide but have a hard time managing to care for them when things get tough.  A good case in point:  I have a good friend who is going through a real upheaval right now.  She’s got a couple of chronic illnesses, endometriosis, migraines, been diagnosed with fibro and frequently struggles with the “fibro fog”, intense fatigue, and chronic pain.  Her husband lost his job about two months ago, just before she started a new full time one.  She had already been worried about whether she would be able to do the schedule this new job demanded, then about a month into it…a month of her husband having no luck looking for jobs locally, her husband got a job one state and over 5 hours away.  Money is incredibly tight and he has to take it.  So he’s moving to be near the job, and will come home on weekends to be with her.  But it leaves her all week with managing their household and her new, already incredibly challenging full time job alone.  Her household consists of three cats, one of whom is seriously ill and needs timed medication including subcutaneous fluid injections; and two energetic labs that they rescued about a year ago after her husband’s dog of many, many years died.  My friend needs to find someone who can help her with the meds and with doggie care during the day, her job keeps her out of the house for 10 hours a day three days a week and you cannot leave energetic dogs alone for that long without big behavior problems.   While she lives far away and I can’t offer to pet sit (and my own schedule and illness wouldn’t allow for it), I can offer to pay for a few days of doggie daycare to give her a break now and then.  It’s about the cost of a good mani-pedi.  So I’ll paint my own damned nails and toes once a month.

Laundry…especially if your loved one has to do laundry at a laundromat.  Offering to come help carry clothes in and out is a huge help, and you can schedule hangout time while you wait for the cycles to run.

Yardwork and snow removal.  When Mr. Patient is out of town, I have images of me wasting away in my home, snowed in.  There is no way in hell I can shovel.  If you have a friend with a chronic illness, offer to clear snow or pay a local kid to do it.  Yeah, your friend might have a capable spouse or family living with them, but if they are supportive, they’re already doing the grocery shopping and the laundry and the cooking dinner…you get the picture.

If you’re a really close friend or family member, you could offer to drive them to a doctor’s appointment now and then.  Doctors’ appointments can sometimes involve painful tests or procedures, and even when they don’t, they can be emotionally draining.  If I had a nickel for every time I have had to pull over and cry while driving myself to or from a doctor’s appointment, well I’d have enough for a cup of coffee at least.  So know that if you offer to drive, you are offering to be moral support too.

The time to pitch in is when you hear of a change.  Is your friend having surgery?  A flare up of symptoms?  Is your friend’s spouse going out of town?  This is when your friend will really need the extra help.  And it’s better than flowers or cards or fruit baskets.