Wednesday, July 21, 2021

ME/CFS State of the Science: Perfect for Sharing with Doctors!


[NOTE: Please take a moment to endorse me! I've been nominated for 4 WEGO Health Awards.]

In June, two top ME/CFS researchers and doctors, Dr. Ian Lipkin (renowned Infectious Disease researcher) and Dr. Anthony Komaroff (long-time ME/CFS clinician) published an excellent and much-needed article in the the medical journal Trends in Molecular Medicine on Insights from myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome may help unravel the pathogenesis of postacute COVID-19 syndrome. The journal article covers the state of ME/CFS research at this time when "long COVID" (which is often ME/CFS) is rapidly increasing our numbers. It also addresses how the research and science of each condition can help the other.

You can read an excellent, easy-to-understand summary of the journal article, ME/CFS Research: State of the Art, State of the Science, here at the link at ME/CFS Center for Solutions' (at Columbia University) website. That summary article includes a link to the journal article.

This summary article, with the link to more detailed scientific references, is a perfect brief document to print and share with doctors and other medical professionals who either want to know more about ME/CFS or who clearly have misconceptions about the scientific basis for the disease. I've printed copies of both for our functional medicine specialist, a brilliant RN who knew nothing about ME/CFS before my son became her patient but is eager to learn.

Another excellent source of information for doctors that I've mentioned here before is the website for the U.S. ME/CFS Clinician Coalition. This is a group of about 20 of the top ME/CFS experts in the nation who've been treating patients with ME/CFS for years (sometimes, decades). On this website, they have compiled their vast knowledge and experience to help other doctors, with a huge array of resources they either reference or have written. These include official reports on ME/CFS, as well as their own guidance on diagnosing and treating the disease. This does not include debunked "treatments" like CBT and GET but a long list of real medical treatments that they have used for their own patients that any doctor can try.

So, if you have a doctor who doesn't understand ME/CFS, doesn't "believe in" ME/CFS, or is compassionate but thinks there are no treatments available, start sharing some of these excellent resources with him or her today! (And if you're doctor isn't interested in learning, find a new one).

This kind of broad communication of the latest in ME/CFS research is exactly what we need to begin bringing the medical community up to speed on the scientific basis of ME/CFS and how to treat it.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Nominated for Awards - Please Endorse Me!


Hi, all!

Just a quick stop by the blog to share some wonderful news with you:

I've been nominated in the 10th Annual WEGO Health Awards for a Healthcare Collaborator award! This is in recognition of my 14 years of work in writing this blog, sharing information on social media, starting and participating in support groups, and advocacy efforts.

It's my 3rd nomination for a WEGO Health award in the last 10 years, and I am honored.

Now I need your help to become a finalist!

Just take a moment to endorse me at this link. The website is a bit wonky and not all that clear, but just click on Endorse This Patient Leader, under the award name. A box will pop up saying "Healthcare Collaborator" that looks grayed out, but just click on it to endorse me. Super easy and only takes a few moments.

Thank you for your endorsement ... and for many years of interacting on the blog, on social media, and in real life to help build a supportive patient community for all of us!

UPDATE ON JULY 17: Wow, I have now been nominated for 4 WEGO Health awards:

  • Healthcare Collaborator
  • Patient Leader Hero
  • Best in Show: Blog
  • Advocating for Another
I am honored and very touched by the endorsements and comments left by people. Thank you for your support. If you already endorsed me, thank you and please consider clicking the link again to endorse me for the other 3 awards, and if you haven't visited the WEGO awards yet, please consider endorsing me for whichever awards you like, if you have gained any value from my work on this blog, in groups, on social media, and in advocacy. THANK YOU!!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Movie Monday: A Quiet Place Part II

We celebrated a BIG event last Thursday: we went to see a movie IN A THEATER! Yes! It felt like an extraordinary, thrilling experience. And we chose a great movie to welcome us back to the theater: A Quiet Place Part II, which is perfect for the big screen. First, if you have not yet seen the first movie, A Quiet Place, check out my review at the link. It is a wholly original, genre-busting movie that defies categorization and is outstanding by any measure (and probably not what you think). Here's a quick review, with no spoilers (even if you haven't seen the first movie yet), of the sequel:

A Quiet Place Part II picks up right where the first movie ended, literally moments later, though first, it takes a look back at how all of this began. It starts with Day 1, the day when normal life suddenly shifted to this strange, terrifying, necessarily-silent world. John Krasinski is the dad; his wife, Emily Blunt, is the mom; and they are at their son's (Marcus, played by Noah Jupe) baseball game. It's a typical small-town Saturday scene, with dad bringing oranges for the players and mom encouraging her son through his case of nerves when he's up at bat. Big sister Regan, played by Millicent Simmonds, is deaf and is in the stands, watching her older brother and helping to keep an eye on her younger brother. A local friend, Emmett (played by Cillian Murphy) is sitting next to them, cheering on his own son and joking with Regan and her dad. Then, the world as they know it comes to an abrupt halt, as some sort of fireball falls from the sky and lands nearby. Hysteria ensues, followed quickly by terror, as the townspeople catch the first sight of the gruesome alien creatures. Then, the story jumps to the moments after the first movie ended. The family must leave their home, which has become their safe haven over the past year-plus. That pregnant belly mom was sporting in the first movie is now a young baby, adding to the family's danger, though they have taken extraordinary steps to keep the baby quiet. As in the first movie, it is essential to stay completely silent because these aliens hunt by sound, but they must leave and go in search of a new place to live. They leave with just a pack or two each, carrying the baby in a sound-proofed "cradle" between them, looking for safety. They eventually find Emmett, far from town, though he's not eager to add this potentially noisy group to his own safe place. Danger, excitement, and a quest for a better life ensue.

This sequel was excellent, though a little bit more in the sci fi horror category. The focus is still very much on the family dynamics and their love for each other, but this movie had far more scenes with the aliens and far more jump-scares! At one point I jumped so hard, I hit my elbow against the armrest. The quiet is still an essential feature here, though it is not as quiet a movie as that ground-breaking first one, but the sound design is still very creative and unique here. It still feels dangerous to munch on your popcorn during the quiet scenes! Millicent Simmonds as Regan is still absolutely outstanding in her role, and she has an even larger role in this movie, though Noah Jupe, playing her brother, gets a bigger role here, too, and is excellent. It's a wholly unique story, produced and filmed in an original way, showcasing a family's love for each other in the midst of a terrifying post-apocalyptic situation.

A Quiet Place II is currently available only in theaters, but it will soon be coming to streaming services, Redbox, etc.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

To All Who Receive My Posts Via E-Mail



I was recently forced to change e-mail list providers because the old one, Feedburner, went away as of July. This means you are seeing some changes if you subscribe to my blog posts by e-mail.

I struggled to find a provider to meet my needs, who can continue to provide the e-mail service you are used to, and I am still struggling to work out some issues. 

I finally settled on follow.it, which is a feed-reader (much like Reddit, I think). Your e-mails from this blog will now show follow.it as the sender - these are not spam but the same e-mail list you've been signed up for in the past (unless you are a new subscriber - then, thanks!). The subject line will say Your Newspaper, 8th of July (or whatever the current date is).

If you have been receiving my blog posts by e-mail and want to continue, your e-mail should have been automatically imported to the new service. However, I am hearing of some issues with that, so a few points to be aware of:

  • If you used to receive my blog posts via e-mail and no longer do, just sign up again, using the box at the top of the sidebar "Get new posts by e-mail."
  • Whether you sign up now as a new subscriber or your e-mail was imported from the old list, you may be asked to confirm you want to stay on the list. I've heard this confirmation e-mail is confusing, and I've reported that to the company. Just be sure to click to confirm you want to stay on the list.
  • When you confirm you want to stay on the list, follow.it will also ask if you want to follow other feeds they host (including other blogs, news, entertainment, health sites, etc.). You do not have to follow any other feeds in order to continue receiving e-mails from this blog. Just click "unfollow" or don't select any new ones.

I apologize for the confusion. Believe me, I share your frustration! I've been wrestling with this issue for over a month now. But I think we are just about there. To summarize:

From now on, your e-mail updates from this blog will show follow.it as the sender.

You MUST confirm you want to stay on the e-mail list when prompted to do so.

You don't have to sign up for any other feeds with follow.it.

If you want to subscribe to this blog, to receive the posts in your e-mail inbox, just sign up using the box at the top of the sidebar "Get new posts by e-mail."

Thanks for your patience - I can't wait for this to all be sorted out and running smoothly!

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

TV Tuesday: Summer Shows 2021


Summer used to be a dead time for TV, with nothing on but reruns while we waited for the new fall TV season. Things have changed, though, and with all the competing streaming services, cable channels, and even the stodgy old networks bringing out new seasons and new shows at all times of the year, there is plenty to watch in the dog days of summer. My husband and I are enjoying a bunch of new seasons from some old favorite TV series, some new-to-us shows, and are looking forward to trying some new shows later this summer, too. (Links below go to my reviews--including trailers--where available.)

Returning Favorites

The good news? Our all-time favorite show is back for some extra end-of-season episodes. The bad news? These will be the last episodes ever. Good Girls, a hilarious, moving, thrilling series on NBC about three moms who get pulled into a life of crime, is back for an extra four episodes, but the powers that be have decided that this fourth season will be its last. This show is so well-done, starring Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman as the title moms and Manny Montana as the hot but dangerous crime boss. We just watched the second-to-last episode last night and can't even begin to imagine how they'll wrap it up when the last episode airs on July 8. 
Another favorite of ours is back for its third season. In the Dark on CW (earlier seasons on Netflix) is another story of regular people getting pulled into hard crime, but in this case, it's a blind woman named Murphy, her best friend, Jess, who's a veterinarian, and their co-worker, Felix. In the first episode, Murphy "witnesses" the murder of a good friend, a teen boy killed by drug dealers. Even though Murphy is blind, she knows enough to help the police and is determined to help bring her friend's killers to justice. But, this is a twisty tale, and between criminals, good cops, crooked cops, and deals gone wrong, the three young people, who all work at Murphy's parents' guide dog charity, soon find themselves into the criminal world way too deep. It's an excellent show, a dark thriller but with a great sense of humor, and we are excited to hear it will be back for a fourth season in 2022.

I finally finished reading the last book in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy by Stephen King (including Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch), so now we can finish watching seasons two and three of the Mr. Mercedes TV show on Peacock. Luckily, someone warned me that the TV show swaps things around, with season two covering book three and season three tackling book two, so I knew to finish the whole trilogy before going past season one. I have made the mistake of starting season two of the show immediately after finishing End of Watch, so I am a little annoyed by all the changes they made: killing off beloved characters, adding entirely new characters, shifting the plot, and even changing the seasonal setting. But, all that said, it is still an excellent TV series and very well-done, a detective/thriller show with some paranormal elements. If Stephen King can accept all these changes to his books, I guess I can, too.
Another show we enjoy based on a book series is Bosch on Amazon Prime, adapted from the huge series of books by Michael Connelly about Detective Harry Bosch. We both love Connelly's novels and the Bosch character, and the TV series is an outstanding adaptation. Each season is generally adapted from a single novel, and the cast is excellent, headed up by Tutus Welliver as Bosch and Jamie Hector as his partner, Jerry Edgar. Lance Reddick co-stars as the Chief of Police. This is a classic police procedural, set in L.A., but of the highest quality. We were very sorry to hear this seventh season is its last, but word is that a spin-off is coming ... hopefully based on Connelly's newest character, Detective Rene Ballard.
For All Mankind is an entirely different kind of show on Apple TV. No crime or thrillers here. It is an alternate history of the U.S. space program, in a world where the Soviets first beat us to the moon in 1969 and then quickly sent the first woman to the moon, completely changing the U.S.'s own progression in the space race. In this world, which includes some real-life members of NASA and historical news excerpts, as well as some fictional characters, the race to the moon is accelerated by the Soviet's accomplishments, women become an integral part of the space program early on, and a base is established on the moon to keep the Soviets (who have their own base) from taking over. We are now watching season two, which takes place in the 80's, after the U.S. moon base has grown tremendously and lithium has been discovered on the moon. Can you imagine the implications? The show is outstanding, suspenseful and thoughtful, with excellent cast and writing. It's a fascinating look at an alternate history and science progression but also a drama about the lives of the astronauts, their families, and the other employees of NASA. Highly recommended.

 Also on Apple TV, another favorite of ours has also returned for a second season: Home Before Dark (not to be confused with In the Dark, above). This is a typical mystery/crime show ... except that the detective is a nine-year-old girl! Hilde's family recently moved from Brooklyn to a tiny Northwest coastal town where her dad grew up. Hilde wants to be a journalist, just like her father, and already writes and publishes her own local paper. In season one, she somehow managed to solve a decades-old cold case involving a missing child who was one of her dad's best friends. In season two, she is investigating an environmental mystery. This is one of our favorite shows--it is smart and funny and totally engrossing, and we can't wait for each new episode to be released on Fridays.

To lighten things up from all these mysteries and thrillers, we are enjoying the newly released season five of The Good Fight, a spin-off of The Good Wife. Starring Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald, the show features a Chicago law firm that can't decide if it wants to be an all-Black firm or an all-woman firm (that's a big source of tension in this latest season). It is ripped-from-the-headlines , with this season set right now, past the worst of the pandemic and in the current political climate. There are legal cases in every episode and political references, but also a great sense of humor. Like I said, it;s a fun counter to some of the darker thrillers we watch.

 

 

New Shows We Might Try

There are several new shows slotted to start in August that we plan to try.

A reboot of Fantasy Island is set to premier on Fox on August 10. I heard about this show because I listen to a podcast, Happier in Hollywood, hosted by the two TV writers and show runners involved in the project, Liz Craft and Sarah Fain. After listening to how much fun they had filming the show in Puerto Rico this spring, I decided to give it a try. The trailer looks enticing:


And there's a new Sandra Oh TV series, The Chair, coming to Netflix on August 20! We loved her in Grey's Anatomy and on Killing Eve. Here, she stars as the Chair of a university English department. The trailer doesn't tell you much, though it hints at a good sense of humor ... and it's Sandra Oh! Definitely worth trying:


Coming to Hulu on August 31 is a new series, Only Murders in the Building, about three neighbors who investigate a murder in their apartment building. Get this: the three lead actors are Steve Martin (who created the show), Selena Gomez, and Martin Short! And I caught a glimpse of Nathan Lane in the trailer, too. Talk about comedy royalty! I can't wait to try this one:


How about you? What are you watching this summer? Any new shows coming that you want to see? We're always open to new suggestions!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Movie Monday: Leave No Trace

I was searching for a movie to watch this weekend, comparing the listings on Amazon Prime to the critic and viewer scores on Rotten Tomatoes to find a winner ... and I did! We ended up watching Leave No Trace (critics 100%, audience 80% on Rotten Tomatoes), a quiet but powerful movie about a father-daughter relationship, based on a real-life story and set in a gorgeous outdoor setting.

Will, played by Ben Foster, and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Tom (played by Thomasin McKenzie), live in the forest near Portland, OR, in a huge public nature preserve. While outsiders might view the pair as homeless, Will and Tom have created a happy and peaceful life for themselves, off the grid. Will teaches Tom all kinds of survival skills, and they live in a self-made campsite with a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, and other supplies necessary for both subsistence and comfort. Will homeschools Tom, who is bright, inquisitive, and happy. Occasionally, they walk together into the city, where Will picks up his check from the VA and the two buy supplies, before heading back to their wilderness home. Unfortunately for the pair, it is illegal to live in a public park, and they are eventually spotted and brought in by the authorities. That begins an odyssey of changes for the father and daughter, and the destruction of their unique way of life. They are separated for the first time in Tom's memory, where she is tested academically, interviewed, and given new clothes. Meanwhile, her father receives some preliminary psychiatric care; it is clear he is ex-military and suffers from PTSD. Eventually, the authorities find the pair a new home, though adjustment is difficult for Will, while Tom discovers a whole world and community she was unaware of. The close pair go through several iterations of change, until a crisis finally brings them to a place of closure, though not necessarily the perfect ending one might hope for.

This is a moving, engrossing story that we both enjoyed. The father-daughter relationship portrayed here (based on a real-life father and daughter in the same situation) is warm and loving, and the closeness of the pair is poignant. Movie footage features a gorgeous setting in the forests and surrounding areas of Oregon and Washington, amid towering trees and beautiful streams. The acting, from both Foster and McKenzie, is outstanding; they both fully embody their characters and show the quiet but fierce emotions they experience. There is not a lot of action here, though there are some moments of suspense and tension. It is a quiet but incredibly moving story of the power of nature to heal and the strength of love between a father and daughter ... and the limits of that love, too. We thoroughly enjoyed losing ourselves in this compelling film based on a fascinating true story.

Leave No Trace was released in 2018 and is currently available on Amazon Prime, Starz, Hulu Premium and other streaming platforms.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Weekly Inspiration: Debunking Everything Happens for a Reason


Sorry it's been so long since I've posted a Weekly Inspiration post (or any post these past two weeks!). I was in rough shape for about a week after my second COVID vaccine (24 hours of terrible crash followed by a week of low-energy, run-down feeling). But, I am back to my normal baseline now, able to grocery shop, walk, or work in the garden a bit without crashing after. 

Today's inspiration comes from a familiar source: the Everything Happens podcast with Kate Bowler. Kate is a wife, mother, and minister living with incurable cancer, and I have lauded her wonderful podcast before, as well as her outstanding TED Talk. If you missed those earlier posts, check them out. Her message sounds as if it has been written just for us, and she is honest, authentic, funny, and moving--and her podcast guests are, too.

 

But, I felt compelled to share Kate's podcast again today because her latest episode touched me so deeply this week. It's called Debunking "Everything Happens for a Reason" with Kelly Corrigan. You may know Kelly from her best-selling memoirs, about grief, losing her dad, and dealing with cancer. Tough topics, yes, but Kelly has a great sense of humor. This conversation between the two friends, Kate and Kelly, made me both laugh and cry (happy tears of recognition):

These two women speak our language, even though their experiences are a bit different than most of us with ME/CFS. It's still the same life lessons, the same experiences with people who don't understand, and the same inspiration.

I hope you find this joint podcast episode just as inspiring and powerful as I did!

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

News From Our House: End of Relapse, Improvements, and Vaccines!


It's been a while since I posted a personal update, and for the first time in a long time ... it's all good news today!


Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead! aka The Relapse Ended

After 15 months of an unexplained relapse that stopped me in my tracks for over a year, I finally began to feel better at the beginning of May!

I explained more about the history of this relapse that began in March 2020 in this update post, where I also discussed what some testing showed and what new treatments I was trying. The bottom line on the cause of the relapse seems to be a combination of my Lyme disease flaring up (it was not "under control" as I'd assumed it was) and a simple adenovirus (a virus that causes a mild cold in healthy people) that triggered the relapse to begin. The real problem was figuring out how to make it stop!

As I explained in that earlier post, my son's Lyme specialist (and now mine) helped me to greatly improve my treatment for Lyme disease, which was the key to my improvement. In my Lyme treatment, I changed/added:

  • Increased dose of A-L Complex (part of the Byron White protocol) from 15 drops twice a day to 20 drops twice a day - I saw an improvement just from that!
  • Added Samento and gradually increased dose to 30 drops twice a day.
  • Added Japanese Knotweed, gradually increasing dose to 4 pills three times a day - this had a significant impact.
  • Just recently added Crypto-Plus, starting at 5 drops twice a day and still working my dose up to eventually 30 drops twice a day.
  • [Note that recent research shows these last 3 herbs/blends to be more effective than antiobiotics in eradicating Lyme disease.]

Of the new immune treatments I mentioned in that earlier post, I ended up sticking with just one, but I think it has helped me significantly: Transfer Factor Multi-Immune (Researched Nutritionals). I've worked my dose up to 3 pills twice a day, and I believe it was a major factor in my returning to my normal baseline. I have also really ramped up the herbal antivirals, to try to get all the reactivated viruses calmed down.

During the first three weeks of May, I didn't just feel better; I felt great! I was full of energy, had all my motivation and "mental energy" back, and my stamina seems to have returned to its pre-relapse levels, which I found stunning. While relapsed, even a slow 15-minute walk could crash me, but suddenly I was able to walk or work in the yard, weeding (while sitting/kneeling and with my heart rate monitor on), for over an hour with no crash afterward! Note that I got to that point originally, able to exert and exercise quite a bit without crashing, through a number of readily-available treatments for various aspects of ME/CFS.

So, with the relapse finally behind me and several good weeks without a crash ...


I Got Vaccinated!

Yes, I finally took the plunge, after months of research and treatments to improve my immune function. In case you missed them, I wrote a series of three blog posts about the vaccines, to give yourself the best chance of a good outcome:

  1. ME/CFS and the COVID-19 Vaccines - background info on the immune dysfunction of ME./CFS, how these vaccines work, and potential issues for us to consider.
  2. COVID Vaccine Experience of ME/CFS Patients - links and summaries of vaccine experience from several different sources, including comparing patient reactions to the different vaccines available.
  3. Prep for ME/CFS Patients Getting a COVID Vaccine - this post on preparation is more widely applicable to anyone with ME/CFS, fibro, Lyme, EDS, or any kind of immune disorder, with things patients can do to improve their underlying condition and short-term prep in the two weeks before the vaccine.

I not only wrote these posts, but used the information in them myself to decide when it was safe for me (and my son) to get vaccinated, which vaccine to choose, and how to prepare. As I explain in the prep post, we were already taking most of the extra supplements recommended by experts, but we did double selenium (to 2 capsules, 400 mcg) and add liposomal vitamin C, which we both felt helped us overall and will probably continue longer-term.

So, with all that research and preparation, I got the Moderna vaccine in mid-May once I had been out of my relapse for several weeks. I was still scared! Polls show a 10% chance of severe, long-lasting relapse with Moderna for ME/CFS patients, so I knew I could potentially be in that unlucky minority. 

And ... well, nothing! I had a mildly sore arm for a few days but otherwise had no reaction at all. My husband and I couldn't believe it. He kept asking if I was feeling OK, and I was still feeling really good (for someone with ME/CFS). I did have a low-energy run-down week last week, about two weeks after my shot--not a full crash, just a week of low-energy--but who knows if that was a delayed vaccine reaction or just the usual mysterious ups and downs of ME/CFS! By this weekend, I was feeling pretty good again.

And last week, my son also got his vaccine. Like me, he so far has had no reaction at all other than a mildly sore arm. That's probably not surprising, since our illnesses have always had similar characteristics and we both take all the same immune treatments, but he's really been burdened by lots of active infections lately (his chronic tick infections and reactivated viruses). But, so far, so good! I'll get my second shot next week.


New on YouTube

I'm still enjoying my new foray into video! If you haven't seen it yet, check out my YouTube channel. It includes videos related to both reading/books and living with chronic illness. You can see the different playlists here.

I've uploaded 3 new chronic illness videos since my last update:

  • How To Nap with Chronic Illness - with tips for why and how proactive rest can help to prevent crashes and tips on having a restful and recuperative nap. One of my healthy friends enjoyed this video and said she learned some new tricks!
  • Living with Chronic Illness: Take a Break! - why you sometimes need a break in routine and how to manage a break, even if you can't leave your house.
  • Get Out! Nature Improves Health - this is a common theme here on my blog, and I've written articles for ProHealth as well. Scientific studies prove that time spent in nature--as little as 5 minutes or even just looking at pictures of nature!--has measurable positive effects on mental and physical health. The video includes tips for enjoying nature while chronically ill, whatever your level of functioning, and lots of footage of nature. That means that just watching this video can improve your health!

 


What We're Watching and Reading

Regular blog readers know that I love to read, and I always have one print book and one audio book going. I just kicked off my annual Big Book Summer Challenge, and you are all welcome to join the fun! You just need to read one book (or more, if you want) of 400 or more pages between now and early September. Click that link for the details and to sign up.


I'm a bit behind and haven't made my May summary yet, but you can check out my April Reading Wrap-Up, which included several 5-star reads!

 

(My reviews and trailers and where to watch at the links below.)

We've seen some great movies online lately! Palmer was a poignant, uplifting story, with a surprisingly complex, moving performance by Justin Timberlake. He plays the title character, a gruff, newly-released ex-con who develops a surprising connection with the abandoned little boy next door, Sam, who loves pretty things and playing with dolls. At first, Palmer tries to protect Sam from the inevitable abuse of other kids because of his choices, but eventually, he embraces him just as he is. It's a wonderful story that made me laugh and cry!

We also loved Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand, which has been raking in the awards for both the film and for her performance as Fern. Fern plays an out-of-work senior citizen, left on her own after her husband's death and her town's demise when the local industry pulls out. She takes to the road in a modified van, joining a whole community of similar nomads who go where the jobs are, from an Amazon warehouse in the holiday season to picking beets on farms to working in National Parks during the summer. It's a beautiful, gentle film set in a real-life community of kind nomadic workers (McDormand and one other actor were the only professionals; the other characters all play themselves) with stunning settings. It deserves all the awards it's winning.

On my own, I watched and loved Moxie, starring Amy Poehler as an aging hippy mom, whose teen daughter is just beginning to wake up and learn to stand up, as she grows from being the quiet girl to the leader of a movement against sexism, following in her mom's footsteps from the 70's. It's a fun, uplifting movie with a lot of heart and a great message. 

You can check out all of my recent movie reviews here.

On TV, we enjoyed Debris, a sci fi thriller that just wrapped up its first season. The premise is that an alien ship exploded and the debris from it has been falling to Earth. The pieces have all kinds of weird powers that are wreaking havoc with people and towns all over the world, and a team of investigators travel to wherever a bit of debris is found to try to figure out what is happening and safely contain the danger. We enjoyed this one and are looking forward to season two.

Who doesn't need some seriously goofy fun in these stressful times? One of our favorite shows this spring was Resident Alien, which combines a murder mystery, small-town drama, and a sci fi thriller! An alien crash lands on Earth in the mountains of Colorado and takes on the body of a human man, played by the hilarious Alan Tudyk. He tries his best to fit in (comically, of course) in the small town while searching for key parts of his ship in the deep mountain snow in his spare time, as he learns what it means to be human. It is very, very funny, yes, but is also surprisingly warm and full of heart. We looked forward to each new episode!

If you prefer family drama, with a nice touch of humor thrown in, we have only recently discovered The United States of Tara, an older show starring Toni Collette. She plays Tara, a wife and mother in Kansas who also happens to suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities). Collette is outstanding in this role, playing all of Tara's very different "alters" magnificently, and the rest of the cast (her husband, two teen kids, and sister) is all excellent, too. It's a normal family dealing with all the usual family issues, only where mom can transition at a moment's notice into someone very different! It's a great show.

 

 

How have YOU been? And what have YOU been watching and reading lately? Please share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below!

Monday, May 31, 2021

Movie Monday: Chaos Walking

Since the pandemic started and theaters closed (I am not fully vaccinated yet), we have mostly avoided new release movies. Why pay for a movie at home when so many are available for free? But we made an exception this weekend when I saw that Chaos Walking had finally been released, after many delays. It is based on a book trilogy by the same name by Patrick Ness that my husband, son, and I had all enjoyed very much. It's a bit misleading because Chaos Walking is the name of the whole trilogy, and this movie (I'm guessing the first of three) is really just adapted from the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go. My husband and I both enjoyed the movie adaptation and thought they did a good job of capturing the first book.

Todd, played by Tom Holland of Spiderman fame, is the only boy in his town of Prentisstown, where all citizens are men, and there are no women. It is clear that this is not Earth, though the terrain looks similar. The men are all afflicted by The Noise here. All of their thoughts can be heard by others; there are no secrets here. Can you imagine? Todd's mother, along with the other women, died long ago, and he has been brought up by two kind men, Ben and Cillian, who care for him on their farm. Mayor Prentiss, played by Mads Mikkelsen, can be somewhat menacing at times, though he's kind to Todd. Everything in Prentisstown changes in an instant when a spacecraft crash lands nearby, with a single occupant, a young girl named Viola, played by Daisy Ridley of Star Wars. Todd finds Viola in the woods and is shocked since he has never seen a girl before (remember that Viola can hear all his thoughts!). When the townsmen start coming after Viola, Ben urges Todd to run and to keep her safe. As the two young people, and Todd's dog, Manchee, run off through the forests, lakes, and rivers, they are chased by the men of Prentisstown but must also avoid the dangerous natives of the planet, creatures called Spackle. They are trying to find another town that Ben told them about, where Viola might be able to make contact with the next ship of colonizers that is on its way.

So, as you can tell by the description, this is a sci fi adventure/thriller, with lots of action and suspense. Being able to hear Todd's thoughts adds some elements of humor to the movie, to lighten the sometimes-tense mood. Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley are the stars here, with the majority of the screen time, and they are both outstanding actors, though the supporting cast is good, too (I was surprised to see Nick Jonas). For lovers of the books, like us, it seemed like the movie held pretty close to the events of the book (it's been a while since we read it, which is usually the best way to see a book adaptation on screen). My one disappointment was you couldn't hear Manchee's (the dog) thoughts in the movie. Hearing Manchee's doggie thoughts was the funniest part of the book! Overall, we enjoyed the movie and are looking forward to the next one--hopefully, we won't have to wait as long for that one.

Chaos Walking is a new release, so it is available in some theaters, but it is also available for a small fee at the usual pay-per-view options, including Redbox, YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon, where we watched it. Like I said, we don't normally pay for at-home movies, but I figured $5.99 is quite a bargain compared to about $30 for two tickets and popcorn in the theater!


 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

TV Tuesday: For All Mankind

When I got an iPhone last summer, a free year of Apple TV came with it, so we've been trying to seek out and enjoy any shows on Apple TV while we've got it. I previously reviewed Home Before Dark, a fabulous mystery/thriller show featuring a child detective. More recently, we've discovered For All Mankind, an alternate history of the U.S. space program that is outstanding. We're loving this show so far; it just keeps getting better and better.

The premise of For All Mankind is an alternate history of the U.S. space program, where the Soviets are the first to put a man on the moon (and soon after, a woman) in 1969, which completely changes the space race for America. Now, the U.S. is playing catch-up and is worried that the Soviets will build a military base on the moon and begin weaponizing their early position. From that first episode, the show is set in an alternate reality from what we actually experienced, though many (not all) of the real historical events that occurred are a backdrop here. The real focus, though, is on the engineers and astronauts of NASA, as they move forward, fueled by political forces that are constantly pushing them to do more and faster. Women astronauts become a part of the program, starting in the early 70's, and in this world, water is discovered on the moon, raising the stakes even higher. The real political, fashion, and cultural trends of the 70's are featured here, including the very real prejudices against being gay. This show features a huge ensemble cast with many talented actors, some playing real-life people and some made-up characters. Joel Kinnaman, featured in many top shows recently like Hanna, Altered Carbon, and House of Cards, plays Edward Baldwin, a fictional top NASA astronaut and commander of Apollo 10. Michael Dorman plays Gordo Stevens, who was a real NASA astronaut but here has a much lengthier public career. And Sonya Walger, one of our favorites from Lost, here plays Molly Cobb, one of the first female astronauts (and one of the most skilled of any gender).

This show works on every level and is one of our current favorites. It is a thriller, with some truly suspenseful scenes when the astronauts of various missions are in peril. It is a political drama, featuring the inner workings of NASA and the pressures put on the space program from the President (there are some surprises there). And it is a family drama, zooming in on the personal lives of the astronauts and others in NASA and the unique pressures put on their families. It is, at different times, heart-stopping, heart-warming, and heart-breaking. And it's all played out against the backdrop of the 1970's, with its colorful fashions and decor and unique mix of opportunities both opening up and remaining closed. For instance, it's fascinating to see how quickly the U.S.changes its tune and accepts women astronauts after a Soviet woman lands on the moon, yet how unrelenting and horribly intolerant and bigoted those same leaders are about gay people being a part of NASA. The plot is twisty and constantly surprising. We love everything about this show and can't wait to see what happens next!

There are currently two seasons of For All Mankind available on Apple TV, with a third season planned (luckily, my husband just bought a new iPhone, too). We have just finished season one, and each episode continues to move us in new ways. The episodes vary in length, as is becoming more common on streaming services, but most are at least an hour long.


Monday, May 24, 2021

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED FOR METHYL-B12 INJECTIONS!

URGENT! ACTION NEEDED NOW!

Many of us, not only with ME/CFS but with a variety of chronic illness, rely on vitamin B12 injections as a crucial part of our treatment plan. In this post, Vitamin B12 and ME/CFS, I write about what B12 does, how it helps, why it is essential, and the most effective forms and types to use. In that post, I explain why injections of B12 are the most effective way to get it into your bloodstream (oral types don't work as well, if at all), and why the most common type of B12 available commercially, the cyano- type, is not a good choice for most of us with chronic illness. Instead, I recommend using methyl- or hydroxy- types of B12 in most cases. My son and I both use those two types, made for us from a compounding pharmacy.

BUT NOW, INJECTABLE METHYL-B12 (also known as methylcobalamin) IS AT RISK OF NO LONGER BEING AVAILABLE IN THE UNITED STATES!

The FDA is currently considering whether or not to continue allowing methyl-B12 to be made by compounding pharmacies--and the track record is not promising. In the past two years, only 30% of the medications the FDA has reviewed in this way have been allowed to continue being sold.

What can you do?

Send a quick electronic comment to the FDA, explaining WHY methyl-B12 is important to you, how it helps you, how long you've taken it, etc.

The deadline for public comments is this week: Wednesday May 26!

Public Comment Link: https://regulations.gov/document/FDA-2021-N-0357-0001 (click the blue comment button)

There are multiple compounded medications being considered for removal at this time, so be sure you specify you are writing about methylcobalamin.

I received notice of this pending action from my own compounding pharmacy, so I am sharing that with you. I'll include the letter (with instructions) below as a photo, but you can also access and print the page here as a pdf. The link for electronic comments is in that letter.

PLEASE ACT NOW SO WE DON'T ALL LOSE OUR METHYL B12!

Here is the comment I left on the website (it only took a few minutes) - feel free to copy relevant parts describing the necessity of Methylcobalamin as part of your treatment - JUST BE SURE TO CHANGE THE PERSONAL INFORMATION (FIRST PARAGRAPH). If they see duplicate comments, they may not count them.

Re: PCAC Review of Methylcobalamin

My son, XXX and I, Suzan, (55) both have multiple chronic illness, including a complex immune disorder and multiple chronic infections. We live in Wilmington, Delaware. We have both taken methylcobalamin injections for 14 years, since 2007. We both self-inject every other day, alternating hydroxy- and methyl- types because that is what is most effective for us. We purchase our methylcobalamin from Hopewell Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy, and it is prescribed by our physician. We both take 3.5 mg per dose (every other day). Because we get it from a compounding pharmacy, they can make up a higher concentration solution - 25 mg/ml - so that the amount (ml) that we inject is tiny. This makes the injections much more comfortable and sustainable over time.

Methylcobalamin is an absolutely essential part of our treatment program. Because of our chronic illness, our bodies do not absorb vitamins well, so supplementation is often necessary, as is the case with B12. This vitamin is essential for production of red blood cells and DNA and for the functioning of our nervous systems, as our disease is known to cause severe autonomic nervous system dysfunction. This means that the methylcobalamin injections help us with cognitive function, immune function, energy, mitochondrial function, and nervous system function, all of which are dysfunctional in our disease. In simple terms, the methylcobalamin injections give us the energy and mental clarity necessary for basic functioning and activities of daily living, even though the disease very much limits what we can do.

In addition, it is crucial for us to have access to injectable methylcobalamin, only available through compounding pharmacies. Many studies have shown the oral forms to be poorly absorbed, and I noticed a huge improvement when I switched from sublingual tablets to the injections. The type of B12 is important, as well. Most commercially available B12 - and ALL injectables commercially available - are the cyanocobalamin form of B12, which is not effective for us and can even be dangerous to us. That cyanide molecule requires glutathione in order to be converted to usuable methylcobalamin in the cells, but with our disease, our cells don't make much glutathione, so we can not efficiently convert cyanocobalamin. That's why direct supplementation with methylcobalamin injections is necessary.

We are not alone. I write a blog about chronic illness, have written a book about it, and have started several support groups for people with similar diseases, both in-person locally and online, with thousands of members. I know that many, many more patients with similar diseases rely on compounded methylcobalamin (either injections or in IVs) as an essential part of their treatment protocol. Please continue to allow methylcobalamin to be compounded.


 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Prep for ME/CFS Patients Getting a COVID Vaccine


This is my third post about the COVID vaccines and ME/CFS. The first, ME/CFS and the COVID-19 Vaccines, explained about the specific kind of immune dysfunction in ME/CFS, how these vaccines work, and sources for patient experience. My latest post last week, COVID Vaccine Experience of ME/CFS Patients goes back to some of those resources for patient experience, three months later, to discuss what has been reported by thousands of patients. This third post will cover preparations that the ME/CFS experts recommend you take before getting your vaccine. Note that this third post, about vaccine preparation, will probably be helpful for people with a wider range of chronic illnesses than just ME/CFS.

There are three main concerns about getting the vaccine in ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses, with different things you can do for each to improve your chances of a good outcome. First, I will cover the basics: things you can do to help improve your ME/CFS in ways that will help you to better tolerate the vaccine (and feel a whole lot better, too!). Then, I will sum up with a list from the experts that pulls all of this together.

 

Improve Detox

It's well-known that many patients with ME/CFS over-react to even tiny doses of medications or supplements, so the concern with the vaccines is that we'll react to something in them and have trouble clearing it out of our systems. This ability to detox effectively and process toxins in our bodies is directly related to the methylation process. Methylation happens within each of our cells, and is a complex series of processes. Methylation not only controls detox processes but also the manufacture of adrenal hormones (which control all bodily functions), neurological processes, and even the manufacture of DNA and RNA. If you have poor methylation (as most with ME/CFS do), you are likely to have more trouble with the vaccines.

Fortunately, there are lots of simple steps we can take to help improve methylation, which will in turn help to improve many aspects of our disease. This post, The Methylation Cycle: Central to ME/CFS, explains more about what methylation is, what it does and how it works, and toward the bottom, steps you can take to improve methylation.


Reduce the Possibility of an Allergic Reaction

Since ME/CFS is, at its heart, an immune disorder that makes most of us over-react to allergens, allergic reactions are a bigger concern for us than for the general public. Many of us react to all kinds of things, from medications to foods to things in our environment. This tendency of our immune system to over-react to allergens puts us at greater risk of a serious allergic reaction to the vaccines.

Many of us with ME/CFS also have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), where our mast cells (part of the allergic system) are in an almost-constant state of activation. This can result in typical sort of allergy symptoms, like runny nose, sinus problems, watery or itchy eyes, hives, and even anaphylaxis (swelling/closing up of the throat and mouth). But, for us, MCAS can sometimes just add to our "normal" ME/CFS symptoms, like fatigue, lack of energy, pain, immune symptoms, and brain fog.

My son and I began treating MCAS a couple of years ago; his food allergies were ramping up and he'd had an unexplained anaphylactic episode and my "usual" allergies (mostly dust and mold) were just bothering me all year-round. Treatments for MCAS are mostly simple and easy to find, available over-the-counter without a prescription. We've both seen improvements with this approach, and I know other patients who've seen even more significant improvements from treating MCAS. You can read all about MCAS, how to treat it, and what is working for us at my post about Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and ME/CFS. It's more than just antihistamines, so take a look.

Again, as with improving methylation, treating MCAS or using MCAS-type treatments will not only reduce your chances of a bad reaction to a COVID vaccine but may also improve your overall condition.


Improve Your Immune Function

Since immune dysfunction is at the heart of ME/CFS, improving or normalizing your immune function will help to improve ALL of your symptoms ... and will also help to ensure you respond to your vaccine as "normally" as possible. Improving immune function ahead of time can help to improve the odds that you will not relapse badly after the vaccine and that your body will do what it's supposed to and make the COVID antibodies. And, again, it will improve your overall ME/CFS condition.

Much of what I have written about here on the blog and in articles for the past 14 years has been about the immune dysfunction of ME/CFS and how to treat it. My son and I have had great success with this, and much of our improvement over the years (we now both function fairly well and live pretty active lives) is due to improving immune function. Immune System Abnormalities in ME/CFS provides an overview of how the immune system in ME/CFS is dysfunctional. And Immune Dysfunction in ME/CFS summarizes the three simple, inexpensive treatments that have helped us the most over the years, as well as a discussion of the importance of treating underlying infections. That post links to more information on inosine, low-dose naltrexone, glutathione, and more.

Finally, back in February, I wrote about my bad relapse that began in March 2020 (and lasted until two weeks ago!) and the immune issues my doctor found and some treatments recommended. I ended up getting the most benefit from a product called Transfer Factor Multi-Immune from Researched Nutritionals (we buy it directly from our practitioner, but I see a few places where you can find it online). It--like the three treatments I mentioned above--is also supposed to help normalize immune function, increasing Natural Killer Cell function and balancing Th1-Th2 (explained in the immune anbormalities post above), both very much needed in ME/CFS. It has worked well for me, and I think has been a factor in my long relapse finally ending. I started at 1 pill a day and gradually increased to 3 pills twice a day.


Experts' Recommendations

You can read advice from several top ME/CFS experts down toward the bottom of this Health Rising article. Many of them advise taking antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec--that's to prevent an allergic reaction, as discussed up above and in the MCAS article I linked to.

Dr. Nancy Klimas, one of the top ME/CFS experts in the world, has recommended the following supplements, added every day, at least two weeks before your first shot:

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 600mg
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) 300mg
Carnitine 1000mg (we take 1 L-Carnitine and 1 Acetyl-L-Carnitine - more info here)
Zyrtec (we get generic liquid gels (no lactose) or Benadryl start day before and continue for 3 days after

Everything listed here is aimed at one of the three areas I outlined above (detox, allergic reactions, and immune function), and as I said, any of these should help your ME/CFS!

There are lots of ways to increase glutathione (glutathione in pill form is not very effective). It's all explained in my post on Increasing Glutathione in ME/CFS. This will help with detox, improve immune function, and give you more energy.

My son and I were already taking all of these daily (for many years), except for vitamin C, so I added 1 g of liposomal Vitamin C daily for both of us (liposomal is better absorbed and less likely to cause stomach upset or diarrhea). I also normally only take Zyrtec at night, so I took it twice a day for a few days before my vaccine (see MCAS post).

And, my Lyme specialist also recommended increasing selenium for two weeks before my vaccine, so I doubled my normal dose. Again, I've been feeling really good, so I will probably continue the vitamin C and higher dose of selenium (after talking it over with my doctors).


And, after all that ... I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine today! It was about 7 hours ago, and so far, I have no reaction or side effects. I am willing to put up with even 2-3 weeks of a bad crash; I just don't want to go into another long-term relapse, so I am hoping I have improved my chances of a good outcome. I feel like I have done all that I could that is within my control.

Remember, there are polls and groups where you can document and discuss your own vaccine experiences, so check those out.

Have you had your vaccine yet? If not--or if you still need your second dose--then I hope this information will help you.


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

 





Friday, May 14, 2021

COVID Vaccine Experience of ME/CFS Patients


[PLEASE NOTE: THIS POST IS ONLY FOR THOSE WITH ME/CFS, AS IT REFERENCES THE SPECIFIC IMMUNE DYSFUNCTION OF THIS DISEASE. IT IS NOT RELEVANT TO THE GENERAL POPULATION.]

Because a primary characteristic of ME/CFS is a dysfunctional immune system, many of us have been concerned about the impacts of getting the COVID vaccine. You can read more about the specific immune dysfunction of ME/CFS, the way vaccines (and specifically the COVID vaccines) work, and more in my earlier post, ME/CFS and the COVID-19 Vaccines

I wrote that back in February. I was concerned for myself because I began a severe relapse of my ME/CFS in March 2020 and was still not yet back to my normal baseline, plus some recent lab tests had shown significant immune dysfunction. In that earlier post, I explain what factors I was considering and some resources for you, too.

Now, it's three months later. I have not yet gotten my COVID vaccine, but two new developments have occurred: just in the past two weeks, I finally seem to have returned to my "normal" baseline after a 14+ month relapse and my ME/CFS specialist ran extensive additional immune testing and gave me the OK to go ahead and get the vaccine. The other factor is that I have been closely following the experience of other patients with ME/CFS, and that's what I want to share with you today.

 

ME/CFS and the COVID Vaccines Facebook Group

I mentioned this group in my earlier post. You can find it here on Facebook. The group now has over 6000 members, and many of them have already been vaccinated and have shared their experience in the group. You can click the Join button to join the group (it's only for those with ME/CFS) and peruse the posts in the Discussion area. There is also a search function (the magnifying glass icon) if you are looking for something specific. if you have already been vaccinated, please share your experiences in the group (use v. or vax or shot or jab rather than "vaccine" when posting in the group as Facebook is clamping down on some vaccine discussions).

My impressions after being in this group for several months are that there is a wide range of experience with the vaccines, from those who had a "normal" reaction, like any healthy person would, with some symptoms that subside within days, to those who have severely relapsed to those who are actually better than they were before the vaccine! Yes, that's right - some small percentage of ME/CFS (and long-COVID) patients improve after the vaccine. Personally, I find this anecdotal information helpful but sometimes a bit scary. As you might expect, those who have a mild response usually post once or twice, but those who go into a severe ME/CFS relapse post-vaccine that lasts for a long time usually post multiple updates (which are much appreciated). These stories of long-term relapse are frightening for me, though I greatly appreciate the people willing to share their experiences, and they do get some emotional support through the group.


The Coronavirus Vaccine Side Effects Poll for ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia

Personally, being a very analytical person, I like data! The Health Rising website (a reliable source of information for those with ME/CFS and fibro) started a comprehensive poll back in January, which now contains responses from about 4000 patients! This is enough data to make it statistically significant.

You can find the poll at this linkIf you have finished your vaccine and have either returned to your normal baseline or or at least 1 month past your last shot, please fill out their simple survey so you can help other patients. For everyone else, you can see the current results of the poll (constantly updated), if you scroll to the bottom of that post and click on "View Results."

There is a lot of information to see there, including severity of illness, side effects post-vaccine (for each of the available vaccines), and how long until the patient returned to whatever their "normal" baseline is.

I have been focused on one piece of data for each vaccine: the % of patients who are still relapsed (not back to normal baseline) after 30 days. For me personally, that's the key piece of information. I expect to "crash" after the vaccine, possibly even for 2-3 weeks, and I can deal with that. My biggest concern all along, given my recent 14-month relapse and my immune problems, is that the vaccine might trigger another long-lasting relapse. 

As of today, here are the % of patients still relapsed more than 30 days after their last dose of vaccine:

Pfizer: 12%

Moderna: 10%

AstraZeneca: 14%

Johnson & Johnson: 14%

Again, that's the piece of information I was most interested in, but you can see the full poll results at the link (scroll down and click on "View Results.").

Health Rising has added an additional poll: a poll for those who improved after their COVID vaccine (within this post that also includes advice from experts). Again, you can respond to the poll if you improved after your vaccine or View the Results.

Also, this Health Rising post from March provides a summary of the poll results at that point, pluys an additional poll for those with severe ME/CFS who have had the COVID vaccine (scroll down to get to the poll).

There is also a UK-specific poll at the ME Association website. It's a more simplistic poll, with just a single question, but it shows 7% of respondents (of about 2000) still relapsed more than a week after their last shot.

Based on this information, my latest lab results, conversations with my doctor, and the end of my long relapse, I am going to get my vaccine next week, opting for the Moderna, as it has the lowest occurrence of long-term relapse. But, I am still pretty nervous about it. 10% still seems like a big chance to take after just enduring a 14-month-long relapse! Since my "normal" baseline is actually pretty good, with treatments, it feels like a big risk to me. Maybe I'll get lucky and be one of those who actually improves? I'll report back.

I hope this post provides YOU with the factual information you need to make your own vaccine decision.

Please share your vaccine experiences and/or your considerations in making the decision about the COVID vaccine in the Comments below.

[There is now a 3rd post in this series about COVID vaccines: Prep for ME/CFS Patients Getting COVID Vaccines, which is also applicable for those with fibro, Lyme disease, EDS, and immune disorders. It features tips and advice on how to prepare ahead of your vaccine, to give your system the best possible chance of a positive outcome.]

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

TV Tuesday: Resident Alien

Are you in need of some seriously goofy fun? Maybe a mystery with some sci fi combined with plenty of laughs? We recently finished season one of the SyFy Channel's new show Resident Alien, and we loved every minute of it.

Alan Tudyk plays an alien whose ship crash-lands in the Colorado mountains. He finds an isolated cabin on a lake and takes on the human form of its occupant, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle (the real Harry is now dead and stored in the freezer). The alien now known as Harry is hoping to pretend to be human and lay low, while he searches the deep fields of snow in the surrounding area for pieces of his ship. That plan falls apart when the local sheriff, played by Corey Reynolds, and his deputy, played by Elizabeth Bowen, come knocking on the door of his cabin. The town doctor was murdered the night before, and they heard that Harry is a doctor visiting from New York, so they enlist his help in performing an autopsy. Harry (the alien) goes along with this and agrees to help out, mainly because he's been watching a lot of Law and Order reruns in the cabin. As the local law enforcement works to solve the case, the town is left without a doctor and asks Harry to step in. Since he needs to blend in and pretend to be human while he continues his search for his ship, Harry agrees. He begins working closely with Asta Twelvetrees, played by Sara Tomko, who works as a nurse in the clinic. Harry also gets to know Asta's best friend, D'Arcy (played by Alice Wetterlund), who tends bar. The longer Harry is in this quiet mountain town, pretending to be human, the more fascinated he becomes with human beings. There is just one problem: there is a little boy in town named Max, played by Judah Prehn, who sees Harry in his real, alien form.

Describing the plot of this show doesn't do it justice. It sounds just plain silly, and ... well, yes, sometimes it is silly! But that's part of its charm. Alan Tudyk, one of our favorite actors from the excellent Suburgatory, is perfect in this unusual role of an alien trying to learn how to be human. The supporting cast is all wonderful as well. This unique show combines a classic murder mystery with small-town drama and a sci fi alien story. It's very funny, but it can also be suspenseful and warm and surprisingly touching at times, too. I know it sounds like an odd combination, but it's all put together just right for a whole lot of fun. This show was one of about a dozen we were following at once, and it was one of our favorites. We both always looked forward to seeing the next episode and are glad it looks like there will be a season two!

Resident Alien is a SyFy Channel show, so it is available on cable (we watched it On Demand) and probably on satellite, too. It is also available on Hulu and Peacock services or on Amazon for $1.99 an episode or $16.99 for the 10-episode season.

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

TV Tuesday: The United States of Tara

We are a bit late to the party, but we've just discovered the outstanding drama-comedy of The United States of Tara, a half-hour show that originally ran on Showtime from 2009-2011. We are enjoying this wholly original series.

Toni Collette plays Tara, a wife and mother with Dissociative Identity Disorder aka Multiple Personality Disorder. Stress can trigger her to morph from her normal, ordinary mom persona into one of three other distinct personalities: T, a 16-year-old with a wild streak; Alice, a buttoned-up, perfect 50's-type housewife, complete with high-heeled pumps and frilly aprons; and Buck, a rough male Vietnam vet. Tara has no control over when or where one of the other personalities takes over her body and often doesn't remember what happened while she was one of the others. She lives with her long-suffering but loving husband, Max (played by John Corbett); older teen daughter, Kate (played by Brie Larson); and younger teen son, Marshall (played by Keir Gilchrist, talented star of Atypical). Tara's younger sister, Charmaine, played by Rosemary DeWitt, is often around, too. They are an ordinary suburban family, except when they aren't. Though Tara's alter egos often wreak havoc in their lives, sometimes they are just there for awhile, and the family has gotten used to the sudden shifts. T borrows Kate's clothes, Alice loves to bake, and Buck is an excellent bowler. The family weathers the usual ups and downs, with Tara's unexpected personality shifts thrown into the mix. She suspects there is some forgotten trauma behind the disorder, and she sometimes tries therapy and other approaches to getting better, but much of the time, this is just normal life for this very unusual family.

OK, I know this sounds like a very weird premise ... but it works. In fact, it works extraordinarily well. All of the actors on the show are excellent and work very well together, but Toni Collette's performance, playing four very distinct personalities, is outstanding. In fact, she won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and several other awards for this role. She and the rest of the cast manage to capture both the ordinariness of their life and the insanity of it. Though Tara is at the center of it, the show is also about a regular family living this extraordinary life: Kate's issues with boyfriends and jobs, Marshall's struggles with his sexual orientation, and Max's attempts to hold the family together and earn a living. And Tara is actually a great mom, when she isn't punching Kate's boyfriend as Buck or embarrassing the kids as T! The show is warm and engaging and both moving and very funny at times. We just started season 2 (of 3) and are enjoying it.

The United States of Tara originally aired on Showtime, so is still available on their platform. It is now also currently available on Hulu. You can also purchase episodes for $1.99 or seasons for $10.99 at this link on Amazon or start a 7-day free subscription to Showtime there.