Want to Avoid a Misdiagnosis? Here’s how…

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

Two years ago, a dear friend, AJ was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  She had a family history of MS, plus years of ongoing symptoms including a loss of balance, blurred eyesight, slurred speech, worsening fatigue and mental haziness (my word)—all symptomatic of MS.

From the onset of her symptoms, AJ visited many doctors. When her diagnosis of MS was finally confirmed by her doctors, they attached terms like “permanent” and “progressive” to the offending initials. AJ was devastated. In time, she was confined to a wheelchair, heavily medicated, and needed around-the-clock attendants. Here was someone who went from a smart, savvy world traveler, to a homebound, confused, exhausted woman who found it difficult to walk, talk, or even stay awake during a meal. Life changed on a dime.

Here’s the good news. AJ was one of the fortunate ones because she had a tenacious advocate—in this case, a daughter who just wouldn’t give up. Although AJ’s posse of physicians (including renowned neurologists) agreed she had MS, one neurologist expressed his doubts. He suspected her condition might be caused by hydrocephalus, an excess buildup of fluid on the brain. It was risky, he said, but surgery was the only way to see what was actually happening to the brain. AJ’s daughter together with the dissenting doctor zeroed in on a surgeon.

They reasoned that if after surgery the MS diagnosis was confirmed, AJ’s condition would get progressively worse her life would continue on a downward spiral.

If AJ’s symptoms were a result of hydrocephalus or other condition, there was hope for significant improvement if the disease hadn’t progressed too far. Only surgery would tell the full story. AJ’s daughter championed the latter option and the family pressed ahead.

The operation was a success. AJ did not have MS. Instead, fluid had accumulated on her brain which impacted both her motor and mental activities. A clogged tube was the culprit. To solve the problem, the surgeon inserted a shunt in the brain cavity to drain off the excess fluid. The result was astounding.  AJ’s balance was restored; her cognition returned; her tremors disappeared. She returned whole. Was this a miracle?  Or was it a clear case of misdiagnosis?

MS is a slippery disease.  It can only be diagnosed by eliminating all other possible causes. Due to AJ’s family history, a diagnosis of MS seemed like the obvious answer. It was only because of AJ’s daughter who was determined to dig deeper that her mother’s life was spared.

What I find most frightening about this matter is the frequency of patients who are routinely misdiagnosed. A 2013 AJMA study found that more than 1 in 5 patients will receive at least one misdiagnosis in a lifetime. In addition, between $17- 29 billion dollars are spent each year on unnecessary or inaccurate patient care. How can you avoid a misdiagnosis?

Here are 6 suggestions inspired by the Chief Strategy Officer of “Best Doctors, Inc.” a global health company founded by Harvard Medical School Professors that could help you or a loved one from becoming an unlucky statistic…

  1. Don’t be shy. Be curious and insistent. Ask things like “What else could this be?” Keep asking questions until you’re 100% satisfied with the answers.
  2. Get a second, third or fourth opinion if necessary. Let each doctor tell you what s/he thinks without being influenced by previous opinions.  Each time you visit a new doctor, come in with a list of symptoms so nothing is overlooked.
  3. Know your family medical history and share it with your physicians.
  4. Don’t assume your family history is your history as well.
  5. Find an advocate who accompanies you on doctor visits. It’s difficult to listen to and remember unpleasant medical news. Having someone who takes notes and can think clearly is a big help in keeping the facts and your options straight.
  6. If you had a biopsy or other test and your diagnosis is based on one report, have it checked more than once. Pathology is incorrectly interpreted more often than commonly thought.

Have you ever been misdiagnosed? How was the problem solved?

My Meeting With Hillary Clinton

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

Last Sunday, Hillary Clinton was in West Hampton Beach for a book signing to promote her latest tome, “Hard Choices.”

I arrived hours after the opening to avoid the crowds and long lines. My plan worked. The wait to shake the hand of the former Secretary of State and possible presidential candidate was 10 minutes at most. During that time, I was approached by a reporter and cameraman from Channel 12 Long Island News for a short interview.  Did I think Hillary was trying to distance herself from Obama? What do I think of her Middle East policies? What effect will a Paul Ryan candidacy have on her chances to win?

My answers consisted of a short rant about how our candidates, our country, and the world is polarized and paralyzed with anger and hate. How we need more thoughtful candidates. How money controls power regardless of who wins. Yada. Yada. Yada.

When I saw the interview that night on TV, my responses were reduced to a profound “Yes, I’m glad Hillary may be running.” So much for my TV career.

Here are my take-aways from my meeting with Hill…

● It seems she’s had lots of Botox and fillers on her current wrinkle-less face.

● She looked tired and a bit chunky while she shook hands with each person in line saying “Thank you for coming.”

While I’d love to see a woman presidential candidate, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Hillary for years. Currently I’m in the wait and see phase. What I ask myself is this: With colossal problems in our world including a divided country, terrorism, climate change, and hotspots erupting in every corner of the globe, why would anyone want this job anyway.

What do you think?

Ode to My Prelude

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

When I think about my 1985 Honda Prelude, it’s never mere transportation – it’s an object of love.

Don’t get me wrong. I get the difference between people and things.

I love my family. But my car is, well, amazing. It has great lines. Looks like a race car. Holds its own alongside Lamborghines, Ferraris and Bugattis in the most upscale mechanic shops.  And best of all, it thinks I’m queen of the road. I know this by the sound of the ignition. It purrs.

My Prelude has been part of my life for more than 24 years. It’s spent most of its years in the salt-laden air of Long Island’s south shore. This accounts for its pitted exterior and rusting pipes. Obviously the salutary effects of ocean breezes, so good for people, has the opposite effect on vehicles. Yep, I had a lot to learn.

When I consider the time my Prelude and I have been together, it gives life new perspective. Twenty four was the number of years it took Marco Polo to complete his epic round-trip voyage to Central Asia, part of China and back to Venice. It was the time it took me to give birth, raise a son, send him off to college, and see him succeed at his first job. Twenty four years is a long time.

My car was always at the ready when I wanted to see new places. Explore new things. Or give myself private time to solve life’s thorniest problems.

My son recently reminded me that my Prelude was at school with him during one semester of college. I don’t know if I blocked this particular memory because I missed my car during that time, or didn’t want to know what happened to him or the car. Sometimes, not knowing, is the best option of all.

Now my car is feeling its age. The power steering is faulty. Occasionally, the gear box doesn’t work at all. Nothing happens. At all! Thankfully, this is a temporary condition. I let my car rest for awhile. This downtime gives it the stamina it needs to get in gear. I consider this nothing less than a minor miracle.

These days I’m hearing from family and friends that it’s time to close this particular automotive chapter of my life. My Prelude served me well and I should be happy about that. It deserves a rest. I should donate it to a charity.

I consider these well-meaning suggestions. Then I feel sad.

The truth is my own back aches more than I’d like. As I get older, my gears don’t always work, and I need time to rest. When the time comes, will people want to put me out to pasture or pawn me off to a charity? I don’t know all the answers. But I do know that when I take my car out for a spin this weekend, I’ll find clarity. And feel comforted. That’s why I love my Prelude.

Did you ever feel this way about something you loved?

Welcome to the World of Counterfeit Food

This post originally appeared on MOMentumNation.com.

 

Counterfeit bills? Sure. Counterfeit jewels? Check out any jewelry exchange with bargains too good to be true. But counterfeit food? Yep, with most of us watching our wallets these days, organized crime gangs have found a way to make bargain hunters happy, and score heaps of cash for themselves.

About 5 years ago, I started reading food labels. The time had come to see how much of the unholy trinity—sugar, fat, salt—lurked in the breakfast cereals, snacks, and other goodies my family consumed.

At about this same time, the economy was headed on a downward spiral with everyone hunting for bargains—including bargain food.

This was also when many international crime gangs hit upon the perfect storm. With little fear of being caught, they started to create cheap versions of everyday foods, replacing expensive ingredients with “creative” additives or substitutions. Using the original packaging or copycat labels, many counterfeiters made huge profits while unsuspecting bargain hunters were happy to pay lower prices.

Welcome to the world of counterfeit food and drink!

Shaun Kennedy, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota estimates that today 10% of all food bought by consumers in the developed world (including the US) is adulterated. A thought that makes me lose any desire to eat ever again. (That is, until my next meal.)

According to a growing number of reports, popular foods like orange juice, honey, fish, olive oil, pomegranate juice, and coffee are often tampered with, and sometimes contain “mystery” or toxic ingredients such as lead, antibiotics or formaldehyde. Need I say these additives were never meant for human consumption and are somehow missing on the list of ingredients?

What about milk? According to the Food Fraud Database, it turns out some milk sources contain a list of adulterants a mile long, including:  Melamine, non-authentic animal sources, formaldehyde, urea, hydrogen peroxide, machine oil, detergent, caustic soda, starch, non-potable water, cow tallow and pork lard. Yuck!

For those of us who enjoy drinking something a bit stronger than milk, The New York Times reports that a knockoff Glen’s vodka (which looked and tasted like the original) was churned out by a company called Moscow Farm which is located in the English countryside. This counterfeit vodka was pumped into the original bottles and sold in shops across Britain at substantial savings to the consumer. Somehow, the list of ingredients avoided any mention of the methanol and bleach that were added to the watered-down version to give it the proper color.  Click here: Counterfeit Food More Widespread Than Suspected – NYTimes.com

Since food labels no longer tell us what we want to know, here are a few suggestions to help distinguish the true from the tampered… 

  1. Buy whole, unadulterated foods whenever possible.
  1. Read labels. Sometimes they can be a tipoff. Although you won’t find a listing of bogus ingredients, common words or names are sometimes misspelled. (Although these crooks may be clever, they have a hard time with spelling.)
  2. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Better to buy a knockoff designer bag, than a knockoff bag of food.
  3. Buy from reputable stores and suppliers. This doesn’t guarantee purity, but you stand a better chance of getting what you asked for.

FYI: Other products subject to fraud include condoms, pharmaceuticals and makeup. A very depressing thought!

What changes, if any, have you made when you buy groceries and sundries?

What is it with Women and Shoes?

Or to put it another way, if Freud were to ask his famous question today about what it is women want, the simple answer for many of us might be: SHOES!

According to SHOE OBSESSION, a recent exhibit at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), “shoes are an intimate extension of the body that convey a wealth of information about an individual’s sexuality, social status, and aesthetic sensibility.”  High-heeled shoes, in particular, embody our complex feelings about sex and power, which is what shoes can be all about.

Image courtesy Museum at FIT

As I’ve stroll through many exhibits in my comfortable flats, I’m awed by the towering high heels that are works of art. Or perhaps they’re works of art masquerading as shoes. In either case, they are beyond amazing. They are beyond gorgeous. And just in time to check my drooling, I think most of these shoes would be “beyond painful” to wear.

So why are so many women passionate about shoes?  The short answer goes something like this: Shoes give us a chance to amp up our sexuality by just slipping them on. It worked for Cinderella. Her glass slippers changed her self image in a flash, and became her ticket to landing the prince of her dreams.

Shoes tell the stories of our lives. They’re shorthand for who we are. They enable dreams that let us act out who we long to be. They make us look taller and slimmer. They continue to fit our feet even when our bodies change. They make men notice us. They boost our confidence without the price tag of psychotherapy. Unless, of course, we share Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession for Manolo Blahnik.

Of course, we know heels are bad for our feet. They’re bad for our backs, bad for our posture, and bad for our checkbooks. But in this very serious and crazed world we live in, shoes are the wearable, harmless playthings of our adulthood. They are our loyal friends.