Friday, October 26, 2012

One in Four


How does it start? Anger, lack of control and lashing out at someone else. One in four women and one in nine men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime according to the Centers for Disease Control. Five million children are impacted by domestic violence each year and two hundred seventy five million people are impacted worldwide from domestic violence according to Makers of Memories.

Can you imagine what it’s like to live in constant fear of violence? Or maybe you know what it’s like from personal experience. It’s not pretty. Long-term effects of domestic violence on women who have been abused may include anxiety, depression, death, health problems, malnutrition, panic attacks, suicide attempts and an inability to adequately respond to the needs of their children according to findcounseling.com.

Those children suffer, too. They suffer shame, guilt and self blame, fear of abandonment or expressing emotions, anger and depression. Children of domestic violence can act out or withdraw, be aggressive or passive, act as a parent substitute, lie, have bedwetting and nightmares, show reduced intellectual competency, experience headaches and stomachaches and be at risk for self abuse according to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ACADV).

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).  How to help? Besides direct donations, NCADV gets support from many companies.

You can buy products from the Body Shop in the Stop Violence in the Home campaign which has raised over $1.5 million dollars. Mineral Fusion also gives to NCADV and has a special deal this month where you can get free shipping and a free facial scrub while they donate $1 to NCADV if you spend $50 or more. NCADV partners with Cellular Recycler, so if you have old cell phones to donate, email ncadv_info@cellularrecycler.com.  NCADV also receives $5 from Generess when you fill a prescription with them and make them your charity of choice. They take vehicle donations as well.

Another important organization against domestic violence is Futures Without Violence. It has programs to prevent domestic violence like the Coaching Boys into Men Coaches Leadership program and Preventing Violence Against Women on College Campuses. The focus on developing men is important since most of domestic violence happens to women from their male partners. In 2010 Futures Without Violence also developed a resource center called Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center which has advice for employers and unions.

Makers of Memories (MOM) helps children of domestic violence. MOM reports that without “education, a new focus and new tools, more than two thirds of these children will go on as adults to repeat what they learned.” That’s why intervention is so important, so kids can stop the cycle and see that their experience has made them ready to deal with anything.

Today’s blog is serious business. If you know someone going through this now, you can help. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is 1800-799-SAFE. Its counselors can give you tips on what to do. Let’s help stop the violence.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Last Friday and the Rest of Her Life

Last Friday was World Arthritis Day and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say about it. Arthritis is a condition that affects more than 46 million U.S. adults—a number that's expected to increase to 67 million adults by the year 2030. But I’ve not had a personal experience with it until I became friends with a lady at my church who has arthritis. She asked people to wear blue on World Arthritis Day and then I asked her if she'd like to be interviewed!

There are more than 100 types of arthritis but rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. More than 1.3 million Americans are affected by RA. According to the American College of Rheumatology, about 75 percent of those affected are women. In fact, between one and three percent of women are likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime. So, it’s appropriate that my friend is a woman. Her name is Melissa Maxey and here is her story.

1.       How long have you had arthritis?

I was diagnosed at age 35 (I am now 42), but the specialists believe that I have had it for the majority of life based on my medical history.

2.      How did your life change when you were diagnosed?

I was unable to work because of the extreme pain and spasms. My husband had to become the primary caregiver of both our son and me. I was wheelchair-bound for a year.

3.      What kind do you have and how does it affect you?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), (a form of rheumatoid arthritis) which means that my spine is gradually fusing together. With all aging people, I also have osteoarthritis which is in the joints. I am unable to cook, clean, and bathe without assistance. Depression is common, so I am on medication for it and see a psychiatrist quarterly. AS is in the RA "family" of autoimmune diseases, which is different than osteoarthritis and common in all adults.

4.      What are the best ways for others to help people with arthritis?

The biggest way to help someone with RA is to offer assistance: Do they need a ride anywhere? Would they like to go clothes or grocery shopping? Early mornings and evenings are the most difficult time for RA sufferers because of exhaustion and swelling. Going out to lunch or the movies, visiting them at home, and sending friendly texts or emails about nothing in particular are the best ways to make sure that they don't feel isolated. I have many online friends, but not very many locally. I need to get out and meet people, but most activities are in the evening because of work schedules for those my age. The greatest gift I receive is at church where people give me gentle hugs and beautiful smiles! I also have a friend who cleans my house monthly and I give her what I consider a nominal amount. This is HUGE because my husband and son are messy!

5.      What are symptoms of RA?

The Mayo Clinic sites varying degrees of these symptoms of RA: tender, warm, and swollen joints; morning stiffness that may last hours; firm bumps of tissue under the skin of your arms; fatigue, fever, and weight loss.

6.      What do you do to deal with it? Diet, exercise, medication, surgery?

Rest and medication are my current regiment. When I have the energy, which unfortunately is not often, I exercise; the best exercise to alleviate joint pain is water therapy (I joined the local YMCA for access to a swimming pool). Weight gain is one of the worst things for arthritis as it puts more pressure on joints. There are theories that avoiding gluten in the diet helps with pain management, but this did not help me. With RA and AS, surgery is a temporary treatment because these are autoimmune diseases which worsen with the years. There is no cure. 

7.      Why is early diagnosis and treatment important?

Understanding the reason for my pain helped me learn to live by my limitations and ask for help (that's the hardest part!). For years, I was told that my pain was psychosomatic because all clinically-based testing was negative. When my AS developed enough, then the MRI and CAT scans showed moderate-to-severe fusing in my cervical-spine (neck) and mild to moderate in other portions of my spine. Just knowing that I'm not "crazy" helped my attitude immensely.

8.     What sources would you recommend to someone who has just been diagnosed with arthritis?

I scoured the internet and harangued my doctors in my quest for answers. I had never even heard of AS, so how could I have it? I belong to several online support groups for RA, AS, RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), and fibromyalgia, all of which I have. As a postscript, once you have one autoimmune disease, very often you will develop others. My best sources for information come from arthritis.org, mayoclinic.com, and other chronic pain sufferers. Speaking with others who have RA gives me hope that I can live fully, how to work around obstacles (my husband put up grab bars throughout the house), and information about alternative treatments.

9.      You have a great attitude about life. What life lessons have you learned from having this disease?

Thank you! The best lesson I am learning is that the greatest gift is my family. I was so career driven that I set aside my little boy and husband in order to climb the corporate ladder. My strong faith gets me through day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment. God is within all of us and wants us to learn from all situations, making them better, and living the life which others would like to have. To me, this is the greatest way to witness.

10.  Is there anything that you would like to add?

Pain does not have to be a life sentence! All autoimmune diseases can go through temporary "remission," so enjoy the good days and rest on the bad.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where's your pink bra?

Do you have a pink bra? Up until about a month ago, I didn’t, but now I have one covered in flowers which I’m waiting to wear on October 27. You see, the last Saturday of this month is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.

Thousands of women (and men) will be strapping on a decorated pink bra over their t-shirts, putting on pink wigs, wearing pink tutus. Why? Because they want to stop breast cancer in its tracks.

This is my second year of involvement with the walk. Last year I volunteered to count money behind the scenes. I’ll be doing that again this year, but I made myself a bra this year and got on a team that’s fundraising, too.

October 27, the day of the walk, also happens to be USA Weekend’s Make a Difference Day. What better way to make a difference than to fundraise to fight breast cancer and walk to raise awareness about it?

Here’s some more awareness. Women over 40, like myself, need to get mammograms every year. I didn’t get one last year. My gynecologist moved. I did go see him and get a pap smear, but when I went in, he said he was leaving so soon he wouldn’t get to see the results of my mammogram before he left.

Month after month I put off getting a new gynecologist. I talked to friends about who their gynecologist was. I finally decided on one and kept thinking I’d call her and set up an appointment, but I never did.

The one year anniversary of my last visit to my gynecologist came and went. So I set a goal, to see a new gynecologist and get my mammogram and pap smear before my next birthday. My birthday’s next month and I’ve seen my new gynecologist. I’ve gotten the order for a mammogram from her.

If you’re over 40 and haven’t gotten a mammogram in the last year, set a goal. Give yourself a birthday present and get a mammogram before another year goes by.

A friend of mine lost a breast to cancer last year. She felt a lump in her breast but she put off doing something about it. What’s more important? Your life or the inconvenience (and let’s admit it, pain) of having a mammogram? They’re not fun. I know. But the security of knowing you are OK is worth it.

If you can’t make the Making Strides walk on the 27th, maybe you can take an hour to do something else to make a difference. You can find a list of projects already in the works on the Hands On Network website.

I want to hear your stories. How have you helped others this week, month or year? Email me at anne@annesanders.net with your story and I may feature it in my blog or on my website. On my website I have an Inspiration in Action section about people making a difference. You may be one of them. You don’t have to start a nonprofit to help others, you just have to care and do something.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Dime a Day


A dime a day. Does it sound like too much or too little? It adds up to about three dollars a month, less than the cost of a Starbucks espresso or a Burger King Whopper.

It is the coin of compassion that Help Every Day deducts from your credit card monthly to support its projects.

If you’re not sure how to go about helping other people and you don’t have much money to do so, then Help Every Day is a great option.

They’ve done projects around the world: improving water collection in Tanzania, developing literacy and vocational skills among poor adolescent girls in India, providing bikes for new health care professionals in Tanzania, financing difficult deliveries of babies in Sierra Leone, caring for orphaned Kenyan babies, providing training for older orphans in Kenya.

Their current project is helping the indigenous Quechua communities in Peru. By financing a project over a six month period, Help Every Day will assist these threatened communities with economic development and preservation of their unique, traditional weaving culture.

Help Every Day will finance a new Mosqoy program called "Kallpa K'oj" (meaning "giving back energy" in Quechua). It is a volunteer service program for Mosqoy's current students, who are promising but disadvantaged youth from rural indigenous Peruvian Andean communities.

I’ve seen several similar companies come and go, using automatic deductions of money for charity, but this one seems different. The projects are small, around $2,000 or less, and localized so they aren’t going to blow up into major financial drains. They’re helping others in meaningful ways. If you want an easy way to help others that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, check it out.

I also want to hear your stories. How have you helped others this week, month or year? Email me at anne@annesanders.net with your story and I may feature it in my blog or on my website. On my website I have an Inspiration in Action section about people making a difference. You may be one of them. You don’t have to start a nonprofit to help others, you just have to care and do something.

This quote is attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Then tell me about it! Have a great weekend.