Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Monday 9/22

Actually, this post could more accurately be called TV Monday, but there's no alliteration in that.

We haven't had time for movies in recent weeks, with moving my father-in-law, soccer games, school functions, and house guests. Since my husband returned from his big trip to help his Dad move here from Oklahoma, we have been catching up on the endings to all of our favorite summer series, and now we are excited about the new fall shows beginning this week. Here are some of our favorites - the summer ones are probably still available online or On Demand:

My husband and I mostly focused on four TV shows in the late summer, including two new ones and two continued from last summer. We watched the second season of Graceland, a fast-paced thriller-type show about a group of undercover law enforcement officers from different agencies working and living together in a house on the beach near LA. We are also just finishing up the second season of Under the Dome, which is based loosely on the Stephen King book of the same name. My husband read the book and I didn't, but we have both enjoyed the TV show.

We also got hooked on two new shows this summer. We loved The Last Ship on TNT, starring Eric Dane (aka McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy!). It's a post-apocalyptic story about a pandemic that sweeps the world, and a Navy ship left behind unscathed because it was on a mission in the Arctic for several months. The crew includes a top virologist (who was in the Arctic searching for answers in the first place), so the ship moves around, searching for supplies and survivors, while the virologist tries to find a cure, and a Russian ship tries to attack them. It's an original premise and a very exciting, action-packed show that also has a lot of heart.

We came a bit late to The Lottery on Lifetime but just finished that one up last week, too. It's a dystopian story about a future world that has endured a fertility crisis - no women have been able to get pregnant for the past six years (and only a few in the years leading up to that). Now, a scientist has made a breakthrough and has 100 fertilized eggs, and the government decides to hold a lottery to find the perfect mothers to carry those eggs to term. But there are evil forces intent on controlling the embryos and the women.

With our older son this summer, we watched Perception on TNT, one of our favorite series, starring Eric McCormack as a neurology professor with schizophrenia who helps the FBI solve crimes. The three of us also binge-watched Orphan Black, a Canadian show shown on BBC (on Demand and on Amazon Prime) that just blew us away! Wow - best show ever. It has lots of surprises, so I don't want to give much away, but it deals with cloning and I guarantee that once you start watching, you won't be able to stop!

On my own this summer, I watched a British show, Last Tango in Halifax, that I just loved. I often watched it when I had the opportunity to have lunch by myself. It is about an elderly man and woman who used to be in love when they were teens but went their separate ways. They are reunited in their 70's (I think?) and decide to get married. It's a show filled with humor and warmth, with lots of family drama.

Now, we are looking forward to the return of some of our favorites this fall from last year: Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, The Americans, and Grey's Anatomy. That last one is still a favorite of mine, though my husband isn't very interested any more! We've also been watching Legends on TNT with our son, a fast-paced thriller about a man who makes his living going deep undercover and is in danger of losing himself. That's been excellent so far and is sort of straddling the summer and fall seasons.

For my lunchtime show, I just started Red Band Society last week, a drama about kids in a hospital long-term who bond. I thought the first episode was pretty good. I'm also looking forward to the return of Parenthood for its last (sniff, sniff) season - my favorite show of all time and highly recommended!

I know that seems like a LOT of TV, but this is how we enjoy each other's company in the evening, when I am too wiped out to do anything but lie on the couch!

What are your favorite TV shows from the summer or that you are looking forward to this fall?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is Lyme Gone Again??

Back in July, I came down with Lyme disease for the second time. I think I caught it very quickly - as soon as the joint pain began, I knew exactly what it was. I started doxycyline in mid-July and by July 28, all of my Lyme-type symptoms were completely gone, and I was feeling good again (at my "normal" ME/CFS baseline).

Monday marked 8 weeks with no symptoms, so I stopped taking doxycycline (the rule of thumb is to stay on antibiotics for at least 6 weeks after symptoms disappear).

Now, I am waiting and watching - holding my breath and crossing my fingers - in the hopes that it is truly gone. Last time, I ended up on both herbal remedies and antibiotics for 3 1/2 years, but it took me longer to catch on to what was going on and start treatment. I am also hoping that my recent success in balancing & normalizing my immune system helped.

Wish me luck!

P.S. Here's a post on Why Everyone with ME/CFS or FM Should Be Evaluated for Lyme - and why just getting tested doesn't count.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Treating Immune Dysfunction in ME/CFS

I wanted to share what happened the past few days because it is a great example of how much better I am doing now than I was 5 or 10 years ago, thanks to treating immune dysfunction which is at the heart of ME/CFS.

My college son called last week saying he had bronchitis. It's a common occurrence for him and for me, probably because the characteristic immune dysfunction in ME/CFS generally makes us more susceptible to bacterial infections. By now, he knows the signs and understands how important it is to nip it in the bud, so as soon as he felt that tightness in his chest and began to cough, he saw our doctor and got on antibiotics. He comes home every Sunday so I can refill all his medicine boxes (and for Sunday dinner!), so we'd all been together a few days earlier.

Soon after his phone call, my younger son said he felt like he was getting a cold - scratchy throat, runny nose, etc. These two things taken together - in a house where 3 people have ME/CFS-type immune dysfunction - usually means we have been exposed to a virus, as is typical at the start of a new school year. Like most people with ME/CFS, we rarely catch colds or other viruses, but being exposed to one triggers a crash (which is sometimes hard to tell apart from a virus!). I have always referred to these kinds of crashes as virally-induced or virally-triggered.

In our experience, virally-triggered crashes are the worst kind. In the past, being exposed to a virus like that could knock my older son and I out for weeks or even months in the fall and winter especially (and my younger son, whose ME/CFS was milder, might be down for a week or so).

So, on Saturday morning, when I woke still feeling exhausted with a sore throat and feeling achy all over, I thought I was in for a long, difficult week at least. I had to help my father-in-law with some more moving-in tasks Saturday morning, but by noon I was headed back home to bed. My husband and I had to cancel our rare night out alone in favor of take-out and TV. I woke Sunday morning still feeling awful, with classic crash symptoms.

But then something amazing happened. I took my nap early on Sunday because we were expecting six people for dinner, and I still had to refill our 12 medicine boxes (all of which I was dreading). But I woke up from my nap feeling a lot better. In fact, I managed the medicines and dinner just fine and still felt OK at bedtime. I woke up this morning feeling like I usually do - well-rested and good, with no obvious CFS symptoms!

What was responsible for this almost-miraculous shift from month-long virally-triggered crashes to just 36 hours? I believe it's inosine and other treatments that target the immune dysfunction.

ME/CFS is, at its heart, an immune system disorder, as I explained in that previous post. The characteristics of that immune dysfunction have been well-defined in research studies, with a Th1-Th2 imbalance (Th2 dominance) predominant and low Natural Killer Cell function (it's explained in that post). In the case of ME/CFS, immune boosters or immune suppressants are equally ineffective for us - we need immune modulators or normalizers. Over the years, we have tried several treatments to try to normalize our immune systems, and some have been quite effective.

One of the first things to do is to find and treat underlying infections. The immune dysfunction causes reactivation of dormant viruses and susceptibility to bacterial infections. Most people with ME/CFS will test positive for some viruses that are common but normally dormant in the general population - anti-virals can help with those. Many people also have Lyme disease and/or other common tick infections (a negative test is meaningless, since there are no accurate tests for any of these infections yet), especially if joint pain or severe brain fog are part of their symptoms.

Once you've treated underlying infections - or at the same time - there are various treatments to try to normalize the immune system. Two that we've found very effective are low-dose naltrexone, which gave me an immediate boost in energy and mental clarity, and Imunovir or inosine (similar compounds).

I think the inosine in particular has had positive long-term effects (we started with Imunovir, a prescription medication, but when it became unavailable temporarily, we switched to inosine, the generic equivalent sold in the US as a supplement and found it just as effective and much cheaper). This week's experience is a great example. Since starting inosine, virally-triggered crashes have become rare and only last a few days instead of weeks or months. Winter used to be torturous for me, with one virus after another being brought into the house (with two school-age kids), and my son and I often crashed for much of the season. No more! I also generally have more good days and fewer bad days, and my stamina is much improved (beta blockers also helped with that). Immune-type symptoms (sore throat, swollen glands, feeling feverish, flu-like aches) have become rare.

So, with these improvements, any kind of crash has become rare for me, and a long-lasting one almost never happens now. My allergies have improved, too (another sign of the immune system being more normal). My son has seen all these same improvements, and I think inosine is a big part of why he is able to be at college now, living on campus. These treatments are what are helping us to lead more normal lives, even though we both still have ME/CFS.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I'm Still Here!

Just wanted to pop in for a quick post to let you know I am still here!

It's been a hectic couple of weeks here, moving my father-in-law cross-country from Oklahoma to Delaware and helping him get settled here. I spent all of this week driving him all over town - dentist and doctor appointments, stores, soccer games. I've only been home long enough to sleep and cook meals! He's 89, and I think he's held up with the hectic schedule better than I have.

The movers came today with all his stuff, so we helped him move into his new independent living apartment at a complex close to us. So today was grocery shopping and lots of unpacking. I've enjoyed eating lunch with him in the dining room there the past two days. He seems to really like it so far; it was tough for him to move so far away after spending his entire life out west, but I think he is very happy to be close to us and not so isolated anymore.

So, my husband and I actually have a quiet evening together, after weeks of travel and craziness. We plan to catch up on our favorite TV shows! Yeah, I know, major excitement, right? I'm just glad to be lying on the couch with nothing urgent to do for once.

I've got lots of interesting blog posts written in my head, so hopefully, I will actually have time to get them written in real life next week.

My father-in-law and my husband at our son's soccer game this week.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Movie Monday 9/8

My husband was still out of town this week, helping his Dad pack up and move here to Delaware, so I had another weekend of girl movies! Though, I really missed watching our usual weekly TV shows with my husband. They just got back today.

Friday night, I was feeling crummy, so I treated myself to a feel-good classic, Footloose. Can you believe I had never seen it before? I know, crazy. I thoroughly enjoyed this 1984 dancing classic - it reminded me of Flashdance with a male main character. In case you, like me, somehow missed this popular movie, it's about a teen boy from Chicago who moves to a small town where dancing is outlawed. It stars an unbelievably young Kevin Bacon - half the fun was seeing him as a youngster! Sarah Jessica Parker is also in it, also as a teen - she was only just-turned18 when she acted in this role - with supporting roles by John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest. I loved it, and it was just the pick-me-up I needed, with a great 80's soundtrack, lots of music and great dancing, and a somewhat predictable but still great resolution. After it ended, I wanted to re-watch Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, and other musical 80's classics!

On Saturday night, I watched One Day, a romantic comedy I borrowed from the library. It was based on a unique concept: checking in with two friends on the same day every year for 20 years. Anne Hathaway stars as Emma, a British college graduate who meets Dexter, played by Jim Sturgess, on their graduation day on July 15, 1988. The movie then checks in with the two of them every July 15th. They have a near-miss romantic encounter early on and then decide to be friends. Their lives take vastly different paths, but they always stay in touch and care for each other. I enjoyed the movie, although the format made it a feel a bit choppy at times, especially when major life events occurred that hadn't been shown. Overall, it is unique and different from most romantic comedies. I thought the ending would be predictable, but it wasn't at all - there were plenty of surprises in store.

Have you seen any good movies lately?

Monday, September 01, 2014

Movie Monday 9/1

I had a very rare weekend to myself, with my sons off to the beach with friends and my husband helping his Dad move out here. I rested and recuperated, caught up on a few things around the house, ate take-out, read a lot, and watched a couple of movies my husband wouldn't have wanted to see!

Saturday night, I watched Friends with Kids, a romantic comedy that hit the theaters last year. Jennifer Westfeldt stars as Julie (she also wrote and directed the film!), a woman living in Manhattan who can't seem to find the right guy. She hangs out with her lifelong best friend, Jason, as well as two married couples they are friends with (two of the four friends are played by Jon Hamm and Maya Rudolph). After both married couples have kids, Julie feels her biological clock ticking, so she and Jason decide to have a baby together, as friends. They think they've beat the system, as they happily glide through the baby and toddler years while their friends' marriage seem to be falling apart. But the ideal world doesn't last, and things get complicated when Jason begins seriously dating a young dancer and Julie gets involved with a handsome divorced dad. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, if you've ever seen a romantic comedy before, the movie is still very well done and original, with plenty of laughs and drama both. I enjoyed it.

Sunday night was a bit darker, movie-wise. I watched Sylvia, a film about Sylvia Plath, with Gweneth Paltrow in the lead role. So, yeah, you know how this one ends, and it's not a happy ending, right? True, but it's still an excellent movie. Paltrow is mesmerizing as Plath at all her ages and in all her moods. I haven't read any Plath before, but I know all about her (who doesn't, right?). It's interesting to see behind the scenes into the life of this literary icon, from her life as a Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge to her marriage to famed poet Ted Hughes to her time as a mother and her downward spiral further into depression and eventually suicide.  So, if you think that might be too disturbing to you (my husband would have hated this one!), best to pass it up, but if you are interested in knowing more about the famous poet and novelist and want to see her skillfully brought to life on the screen, then this is the movie for you.

Have you seen any good movies lately?