Friday, February 17, 2012

Cheesecake Malfunction

For Valentine's Day I decided to make my husband's favorite cheesecake, something our diets, and my energy level, rarely allows for, but it was a special occasion and we'd pay the price on the treadmill later.

The arthritis in both my hands and wrists has been horrible lately-- swollen, painful and too weak to really get a good hold of things.  But I pressed on with the cheesecake preparation which, in all honesty, is fairly simple compared to peeling carrots and potatoes.  I pulled the cheesecake together and placed it carefully in the oven in no time.

It had been a while since I prepared a big dinner, in this case, short ribs, potatoes and carrots all roasted together.  At the end of a full day of cooking my hands we beat and I'd already placed splints on them for extra support.  I'm not positive the splints actually help but it makes me feel like I'm being proactive to ease the pain. 

So as the cheesecake's oven timer churped I struggled to pull the oven mitts over my splints to remove the gorgeous cake to the cooling tray.

As if the universe was shouting "no cheesecake for you" a slow motion juggling act played out before my eyes....  My forearm kissing the piping hot oven rack causing the cake to slipped off the left mitt.  The right mitt reached to help steady my hand only to land smack in dab in the middle of the cheesecake to keep it from completely falling to the floor.

Eventually the cake made it safely to the counter... garnished with a big, bright blue oven mitt.  How I wish I'd taken a picture to share with you, but, I was too busy cursing like a drunken sailor at the mess I'd made.

So after everything was cleaned up and I'd caught my breath, I made a doctor's appointment for some cortisone injections to help ease the hand and wrist pain.  Remember as a kid how you used to get a lollipop for being a good patient?  I'm thinking a slice of cheesecake from my favorite deli is an appropriate treat this time, don't you.

Until next time...
Joanna J, aka Lemon Aid
Photo Credit (c) Trevor Allen

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fingers and Toes

The minute my friend told me, bells and whistles went off in my brain!  She said manicures and pedicures could cause some serious health issues for me because of my lupus and also to anyone who's not careful.  The mention of Hepatitis C is what set the alarms off and gave me pause... Because I knew little about it.

Call me high maintenance, but giving up my mani/pedi guilty pleasure was not an option.  Aside from the fact that 90 minutes at the nail salon can turn my whole day around-- (Seriously, a good mani/pedi really can and if you don't know I highly recommend you try it.)  It is also a necessity, or at very least, extremely helpful when you have sore, swollen joints from arthritis like I do.

So I investigated the potential problem further.  Hepatitis C can be transmitted through unsterilized instruments at nail salons as well as through tattoo and body piercings instruments --  Call me chicken but tats and piercings will never be a problem for me-- I'm just sayin.  These are in addition to the more common causes like unsterilized needles from vaccines (more common in lesser developed countries) as well as the usual things we've probably all read about like intravenous drug use and promiscuity.

I'm a clean freak and so is my nail salon owner, plus, I already take my own equipment with me-- But heads up people!  Although salons are legally required to sterilize all instruments after each use, pay close attention and make sure everything is squeaky clean and files are new.

But still, I investigated further and was able to ask Dr. Douglas Dieterich, M.D. at New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center about "Hep C" and about it's possible connection to lupus since I've heard of "autoimmune hepatitis".  Here's what he had to say...

Q. I've heard that Hepatitis C and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus have similar symptoms.  What are they and is there any link between the two diseases?
A. There is no link between the two diseases.  The only symptom in common is fatigue.

Q. Can Hep C trigger a Lupus flair or vice-a-versa?
A. One of the treatments for Hepatitis C, interferon, can trigger a flair up in lupus.

Q. Can lupus medications like Methrotrexate lead to Hepatitis C?
A. No, but they can cause some liver scarring.

Q. Is there a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C?  Or are any in the works?
A. There is no vaccine for Hep C.  Research continues on developing one but nothing has shown significant promise yet.

Q. What type of doctor specializes in Hepatitis C?  Should I include this speciality in my medical team to oversea my health?  If so, how often should I be checked?
A. A specialist in hepatology, or liver diseases, treats Hepatitis C.  You do not need to include a liver disease specialist in your ream of health care providers unless you test positive for a liver disease.  however, you should speak to your primary care physician about being tested for Hepatitis C, as it has no symptoms in most cases.

Q. What is your best advice for patients with lupus and related diseases to be proactive about their liver wellness?
A. People with lupus should eat a healthy diet, avoid weight gain, stay away from refined sugars, and drink alcohol in moderation.

Perhaps this sounds extreme or slightly alarmist but I prefer to be safe than sorry.   In Dr. Dieterich's case, he knew exactly when and how he got the disease...

I prefer to be safe than sorry and appreciate Dr. Dieterich answering my questions.  

Until next time...
Joanna J aka Lemon Aid
Photo Credit: © Dmitry Sunagatov -

Sunday, January 1, 2012


It's surprising, at least to me, that I can charge forward at the holidays-- Always, pushing, pushing, pushing forward and past my ailments to take care of things but when the dust settles and I actually STOP for a full minute and breathe, the magnitude of just how much I've over worked my tired body smacks me in the face.  The fact that it's a stinging, full-on whack isn't surprising.  What's surprising is that I'm surprised!

I've been at this lupus game for close to 20 years and I should know better.  Way better. 

Watching television as the ball dropped on New York's Time Square, I winced as I stood with our small group of friends to countdown the last 10 seconds of 2011.  Joint pain and extreme fatigue were in full bloom and I had no one to blame but myself.

After a quick mental inventory of my health, I caught myself trying to justify my actions as "worth it".  My hands were swollen as a result of finishing this baby quilt in time for Christmas... The border, hand sewn, should have taken about an hour to complete.  Instead it took me three days as I struggled to maneuver the needle between my thumb and forefinger.  But, without hesitation, I checked the "worth it" column in my head. 

My knees, hips and ankles were inflamed beyond recent memory but I'd cooked numerous meals for friends and loved ones and baked and baked and baked for the holidays which definitely contributed to my aches.  Again, another "worth it" check mark.

And my energy, never all that great in the first place, was a hiccup away from crashing and burning as the seconds wound down for 2011.  What would I have changed in recent weeks?  What wouldn't I have done to feel a little better?  Who wouldn't I have invited to dinner in exchange for a bit more energy.  Again in a blink, the "worth it" column received a check mark.

But here I sit, worn and tired to the bone from the holidays.  And it's not the first time.  This seems to be a conversation I have with myself on an annual basis.  Years of lupus and related issues have taught me to delegate, just say no, and how to make guilt-free dinner reservations, but when it comes to Christmas and Hanukkah, it seems I lose my senses and push myself too far.

So as usual, the top of my New Year's Resolution List is to STOP with the holiday insanity and learn to pace myself this time of the year.  I've actually written notes to myself in my new 2012 calendar to reinforce the Resolution throughout the year because this time I. Really. Mean. It!

I know without a doubt that I am incredibly blessed not to be sicker than I actually am.  And I know there are many things with my illness that I can't control.  But actively participating in my wellness is a 365 day job, and that includes the holidays too.

So with all good intentions of a happy and healthy and smarter 2012, I wish all the same to you as well.

Happy New Year!
Joanna J.  aka Lemon-Aid
Photo Credit: © Callahan -