ART is a Gift You Give Yourself

I never really thought of myself as an artist before. As a child, I did enjoy photography and I vividly remember my Dad buying me a polaroid camera and a few years later a super 8 video camera. I had so much fun documenting memories by taking photos, and filming.  Every now and then, I would do a sketch or two, but I can't recall saving them or even displaying them anywhere. Truth be told, I have no idea where my early works of art are now. 

I recall my daughter Malaika's surprise at her 9th birthday party, when I drew Nala and several tails for a Pin the Tail on Nala game. She was amazed that her Mom could draw, and that should have alerted me to the fact that art was not something I did often enough.

Needless to say, it is only in the last 3 years that I really started to take a keen interest in drawing, painting and card making.   We have a 2 room shed behind our house. One section was  for our generator, and the other room was supposed to be a potting shed for me to deal with my orchids and other flowers. Eventually, however, it became  a junk room - full of clutter, and not much else. 

Lucky for me , every summer for the last few years, my two youngest have been spending several weeks with their grandparents and other relatives abroad. This gives Ferron and I a vacation without having to travel or take time off of work. Two summers ago, while the kids were away, I asked him to help me to clear out the shed  and convert it to an art studio. It was a tough task to complete in 4 weeks, the hardest part was sorting through the junk - most of which was thrown away, although we were able to donate a few things. The most enjoyable part was picking out the colors and painting it in our spare time. I ended up with a beautiful space to be creative in, and I have been putting it to good use regularly. Even my youngest, Kalonji, has been enjoying doing art in there with me. My husband is happy too, because now when he is out in the garden, one of his artistic pursuits, I am too busy creating  to miss him or try to cajole him to come in before he is ready .

Potting Shed before being converted to my Art Studio

Potting Shed before being converted to my Art Studio

My Art Studio, with special thanks to my husband Ferron.

My Art Studio, with special thanks to my husband Ferron.

That same summer, I attended a beginners acrylic painting class at TAMCC that was taught by a wonderful local artist, Stacey Byer. I really enjoyed learning some of the basics of drawing and painting, and socializing with other creative people.

Art is not only drawing or painting, it is any creative endeavor such as cooking, writing, making music, dancing, gardening, photography, sculpting, doing yoga.... etc. It is any practice that you can participate in creatively and be focused. Art is good for you, good for your soul. Making art is an opportunity to spend time with yourself, doing something fun that you enjoy. It improves your self-esteem, helps with stress reduction and decreases depression. It stimulates your brain in a different way than work does.  It is an opportunity to get to know yourself better. There is no right or wrong in art, it is what you interpret it to be, and you don't even have to share your creations with anyone if you don't want to.

 I am currently participating in an online drawing class on Craftsy and yesterday, I completed my first charcoal drawing. I am enjoying trying new media, and developing my skills.

Kalonji showed me a sketch he drew and colored when he came home after school today. I feel great knowing that my actions are influencing my son in a positive way and I hope he continues to create art regularly.

Kalonji's after-school sketch.

Kalonji's after-school sketch.

I hope you make time to pursue something artistic to enhance your life and your mood. Your actions may also encourage your loved ones to start doing creative activities too.  Enjoy!

Oh What A Mess!

This last week has been a very shitty one. Literally!! It started last week Saturday with an elderly patient who has not had regular bowel movements for months and  ended on Friday with a 4 year old who had a distended abdomen and palpable fecaliths. In between, I had six seriously constipated patients, with the youngest being 22 months old. I ended up administering 5 enemas with excellent, but stinky results.

This experience got me to thinking about the condition of  constipation.  It is a serious health issue that is underestimated in my opinion. Most parents know exactly what their child eats, how fast they eat and how much they eat. However, once their child is out of diapers, these parents have no idea about their bowel movements. This is unfortunate, because I believe it trivializes the importance of monitoring the character of the stool and consistency of  bowel movements. Children whose stool is not monitored, will grow up not monitoring their own stools when they become adults. It is important to Look, Listen and Smell before you or your child flushes the toilet. Ideally your stool should be:

  • medium to light brown in color
  • formed into one long shape of soft consistency
  • up to 12 inches long, and 1 to 2 inches in diameter
  • normal stool smell, not too strong or offensive
  • make a quiet splash, not plop down into the bowl
  • should sink slowly to the bottom of the toilet
Ideally, stool  should be Types 3, 4 or 5.

Ideally, stool  should be Types 3, 4 or 5.

Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements per week. If this occurs for more than a few weeks, it is defined as chronic constipation. Some signs and symptoms of constipation include: 

  • having to strain to pass stools
  • having lumpy or hard stools,  like Types 1 or 2
  • having the sensation that your rectum is still full after you pass stools
  • needing to press on your abdomen to assist in getting the stool out.

Constipation happens when the stool is kept in the  large intestine too long and then too much water is re-absorbed from the stool, causing it to become very dry and hard. Common causes of constipation are:

  • not drinking enough fluids, especially water
  • not eating enough fiber, such as fruits (with the exception of banana), vegetables and cereal
  • ignoring the urge to defecate
  • lack of exercise
  • being overweight or underweight
  • stress, anxiety and depression

Medical conditions that can cause constipation include:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Hypothyroidism
  3. Pregnancy
  4. Hyperparathyroidism
  5. Hirschsprung's Disease
  6. Cystic Fibrosis
  7. Spina Bifida/Cerebral Palsy

Certain medications are also known to cause constipation.

 Stool is waste matter that the body does not need, when it builds up it can adversely affect your health in several ways including but not limited to;

  • bad breath
  • coated tongue
  • urinary tract infections (especially in children)
  • distended abdomen
  • anal fissures
  • hemorrhoids
  • rectal prolapse
  • fecal impaction and when severe intestinal obstruction

It is important to keep your bowels moving regularly, by eating right, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and not ignoring the urge to go poop. Monitor your stools more closely and that of your children, and don't be surprised if your doctor asks you specifics about your bowel movements, since it is a matter of your health.

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe

 

Birthdays Are My Favorite!

This is my first blog post for the New Year, I can't believe that the year is almost one quarter over already.  Yesterday was my birthday, and it was wonderful. To be truthful, birthdays  my favorite celebrations. Holidays are nice, but everyone is celebrating on a holiday, whereas on birthdays, family and friends are celebrating you.

Ferron and I were out for a week on our first cruise as a couple. We had gone on one 10 year before as a family on the Disney cruise ship. That was fun, but we were still being parents. This time we were just being a couple. What a refreshing change. We were out for the week before my birthday, and arrived back the night before, just in time to celebrate with the children. Personally, I was celebrating my birthday all week long on the cruise.  It was a vegan cruise with  several lectures on healthy eating and lifestyles and how to  make changes in your diet to improve your health. All the meals were meat and dairy free. It was delicious. I was able to earn 36 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits from the University of Miami by attending the lectures designated for doctors, so you could say it was a working vacation. 

By the time we got home, I was ready for a quiet birthday.  In the car on the way home from the airport, I got a lovely homemade pre-birthday card from the kids with instructions to be ready with my bath suit on at 8:30 the next morning. Ugh, and after coming in so late, I was looking forward to just sleeping in a bit. Oh well.

On my birthday, Malaika and Richie picked the rest of us up and off we went. We arrived at BBC beach................. surprise............... we were going paddle-boarding!  I did not even know we had that here in Grenada. I admitted to the kids that they know me well, because I love the sea, and I love to be active, and to learn new things, so this experience was something I would surely enjoy. 

It was a wonderful, fun and challenging experience. I really enjoyed spending time with my family. Afterwards, we came home and I was instructed to relax in my bedroom, while they prepared brunch. I took that time to return calls to my relatives overseas. 

Brunch was some of my favorite foods cooked with lots of love. I always prefer to have home cooked meals and eat in a relaxed atmosphere at home, chatting, spending time and just being.Afterwards, I was given a card welcoming me to my Birthday Treasure Hunt that instructed me to go into my son's room and await further instructions. What fun!   After 15 minutes or so, the  children opened the door and gave me a card that read..  I am hanging on your favourite type of flower (by your verandah)......

My first present hanging from one of my orchids on my verandah. I am reading the next hint on my Birthday Treasure Hunt set by my children: Malaika, Hasani, Sharifa, and Kalonji

My first present hanging from one of my orchids on my verandah. I am reading the next hint on my Birthday Treasure Hunt set by my children: Malaika, Hasani, Sharifa, and Kalonji

I  found my first birthday present, a beautiful necklace hanging on a dendrobrium orchid outside my bedroom window. Sitting on the branch was the next hint. Ferron and the kids accompanied me on my birthday present treasure hunt. It was a unique way to give me my presents. The last hint led me to the dining room, and the last present was a birthday cake.  

Blowing out the candles on my birthday cake with a glass of sea moss in my hand.

Blowing out the candles on my birthday cake with a glass of sea moss in my hand.

I just love birthdays. I think it is also a time for us to reflect and be grateful for the year past and the year to come. I see it as our personal New Years' day. I am thankful for life, love, good health, family, friends, staff and patients.  I pray that I may continue to live a life full of happiness, and purpose, as I continue to be of service. May I continue to grow spiritually day by day. Namaste.

 

Tags: Family, celebration, birthdays, paddle boarding

Bottoms Up : My Colon Screening Adventure

The colon, otherwise known as the large intestine is a important part of our digestive system. It is approximately 5 feet long in an adult. The colon is  responsible for absorbing water, salt and some nutrients from the digested food, and what remains is fecal matter. This waste is stored in the last part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon and expelled through the anus via the rectum.

Colon cancer is  quite common. Unfortunately, there are no statistics available for Grenada, but  to give you an idea, colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer diagnosis in the United States, where there are approximately 97.000 new cases diagnosed annually.

One good thing is that cancer of the colon is practically preventable. Most cases of colon cancer start as clumps of precancerous cells, which can either be in the shape of a mushroom known as a  polyp, or flat. If these cells are removed early enough, then full blown cancer will not develop.

Normally, it is recommended that people with average risk of colon cancer start to have screening tests for cancer at age 50. The usual screening test is called a colonoscopy. A specialist called a gastroenterologist inserts an instrument called an endoscope into the rectum and examines the entire colon from anus to caecum for signs of abnormalities on the mucosal surface of the colon.

Remember the colon is normally full of shit. In order to have a good test, you have to clean out the feces so that the doctor can see clearly.  This is where my adventure began.  I had to follow a strict 3 day regimen in order to clean out my colon completely so that the doctor would be able to visualize the mucosa clearly.

On the first day, I had to follow a low fiber diet, that did not sound too bad, until I read what a low fiber diet excluded; no whole wheat or multigrain products, no raw or dried fruits, no raw vegetables,no coconut, no nuts, no popcorn, no beans or peas. I am a lover of air popped popcorn. I especially enjoy eating this snack  when I am watching a movie at home with my family. I really was wondering what on earth I would eat for the next 2 days! The permitted foods included white bread, white rice, pasta, meat, well cooked vegetables and canned fruit, fruit juice without pulp, cornflakes, yogurt and ice-cream.

One thing for sure is that we are definitely creatures of habit. It was easy to read what was allowed and disallowed, but it was another thing all together to follow the new diet. One vital thing that I did not see was chocolate, is it considered a low fiber food? I decided not to even check, but to voluntarily avoid it in a effort to cleanse my colon. While writing this blog post, however,  I did check and for all of you who may need to follow a low fiber diet in the future, plain chocolate is considered a low fiber food!

I survived the 2 days of low fiber food, and increased water intake. It was quite a strange experience to eat all the foods I normally warn my patients to eliminate from their diets and to avoid the foods that I preach about eating regularly. I had to keep reminding myself that I was feeding myself these unhealthy foods for an ultimately good reason.  I also did some research as to why it was advisable to eat low fiber foods in preparation for a colonoscopy , and found out that low fiber foods decrease the amount of feces produced in the large intestine, making cleaning out easier.

The next part was the least fun of this whole experience.  On the second day of eating a low fiber diet, two hours after my last meal, I had to take one small bottle of phosphosoda. It is a saline laxative that tastes extremely salty, and purges you out within 40 to 60 minutes after drinking it. Immediately after drinking it, I had to drink 3 large glasses of water. I think I drank them too quickly, as I felt nauseous and bloated for almost one hour afterwards. Of course, the purge part was no fun, but thanks to the low fiber diet it was not too bad.

The next day, which was the day before the procedure, was the most difficult for me, because I was only allowed to have liquids. It was compounded by the fact that I was attending a medical conference and staying in a lovely hotel. When I went to breakfast to get tea and more tea, I had to pass by the heavenly smelling buffet. Every time I thought of eating food, I just drank more water and diluted apple juice. Luckily, I was allowed to suck on hard candy and so I was able to pop mints in my mouth intermittently.  I was concerned about what I would be able to eat for lunch, and thankfully, the soup du jour was fish broth, so I helped myself to 2 large bowls of broth. I  don't think I ate anything substantial for dinner as I knew that I had to have my second laxative. This time, I took the last bottle of phosphosoda earlier in the evening, and this time the purge was not as bad. I made sure to drink the water much slower afterwards, and this time I tolerated it much better.

I woke at 5 am the next day, showered, dressed and took a taxi to the hospital. I arrived at 6:30am and was registered and prepared to start my procedure at 8am. I was taken down by wheelchair, while dressed in my hospital cap and gown, to the procedure room. The last thing I remembered was the doctor telling me the names and amounts of the drugs she was injecting into my arm.  I remember wondering if she did that for regular patients too, or was it just a courtesy for me as a physician, whom she knew may be wondering what was being injected into her veins.

The next thing I remember was feeling a gripe like pain in my lower abdomen and shifting myself to avoid the pain. In retrospect, I think I must have felt the endoscope being pulled around the corners on its way out of me. After that, I recall being wheeled back up to my room, where I was aroused and helped to slide off of the carrier and onto my bed.  I felt woozy for quite some time afterwards.

The best part of this experience was that it was over and that I got a clean bill of colon health. There were no abnormalities seen and my doctor complimented me on my colon prep.

I guess in the name of health, all things can be tolerated.

Bottoms up to all my readers who are 50 or over who are due to have their own colons scoped!

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe


Doctor Heal Thyself, My Perspective On Chikungunya Virus Infection

I am the first to admit that I do not stay tuned in as much as the next person. I hardly listen to the radio or watch T.V. In my experience, the violence portrayed and the negative information that bombards you is a turn off.  Aside from that, I am totally engaged with living my very full to overflowing life, and I just don't have a lot of time to watch TV or listen to the radio. This is not to say that I  don't  have screen time, I do, but mostly on my own terms. I occasionally watch movies with my spouse or with my family - depending on the rating and subject matter. I also love to listen to the playlists that I have made on my iPod. 

So really and truly, I had heard that there were a few cases of Chikungunya in Grenada in August, but I did not know there were so many cases in Carriacou at the time.  I therefore went to Carriacou to see patients on 21st August ill prepared. I wore a short sleeved skirt suit, had on no pantyhose or insect repellent.

At CHS clinic, I noticed the mother of my second patient shuffling into the examination room very slowly with her baby. I asked her, what was wrong, and she said to me that she was coming down with the Chik virus.  I knew enough about the illness to be concerned, especially because there were a few mosquitoes milling around the closed examination room with us. I asked the staff to get some OFF for me and about 1 hour later, I was able to spray myself, but during that interval I continued to see patients.

I returned to Grenada and  did not think anything of it again. About 7 days later, I started to feel mild joint pains. I thought to myself that I probably was exposed to the virus during my day trip to Carriacou, but I rationalized that since I only experienced slight joint pains, I would probably not develop the full blown syndrome.  It is truly amazing how well we humans try to rationalize things. I still sent a blood sample to the lab to be tested for Chikungunya antibodies, just in case. Unsurprisingly, the test results are still pending one month later.

Needless to say, on Friday 29th August, I started to feel very tired and  less energetic than usual. Of course, I reasoned that it was the end of a busy week, and so my body was just pooped. The next morning, after a full night's sleep, I still felt drained. Ever, the good doctor however, I  proceeded to care for my patients as usual. By 1 pm I was done with my last patient, and I had just enough energy to  eat my lunch, shower and get in the bed. The aches got very intense all over. The next day was much worse. I developed a fever during the night and the aches progressed to serious pain, especially under my feet. It was so bad, I could not get out of bed and walk by myself. I had to wear thick fluffy slippers and my children had to help me hobble to the bathroom. The pain was a ten out of ten.  All that Sunday, I kept saying to my family that I still had to go to work the next day. They humored me. I felt so ill. I cannot recall feeling so ill in a very, very long time.

I was able to make it to work, despite the pain. I drank lots of fluids, ate fresh fruits and rested as much as possible, just like I advise my patients with this viral syndrome.  I went on to develop a generalized, mildly itchy rash and lymphadenopathy. Both of which have since resolved. The most disturbing thing to me was the achiness I continued to feel, especially first thing in the morning. As I opened my eyes, I would not feel the normal revitalization after a good night's rest, but I would feel fatigue, listlessness and not in the mood to exercise or get on with my day.   It is one month later, I am still plagued by body aches. The original areas of pain have gotten better. For the last week, my left arm and hand have become moderately swollen, and  very painful, especially when I move it; which is all the time, since I am left-handed. I am hopeful that this too shall pass.

This personal experience has surely given me a new perspective on the Chikungunya virus infection. I had been treating a few patients with it prior to my succumbing to it. I knew from what they said, how they moved, and behaved, that the illness was serious and painful. I always try to be sympathetic and empathetic to my patients' feelings, but truly, it is only by experience that one can get a true perspective on the  severity of a situation.

Sickness is not something that I would wish on anyone, but it really does remind you what is truly important in your life.  All of a sudden, all the mundane things fall away, and your only concern is your health and getting better.  It is a very vulnerable and frightening position to be in, no matter your profession or station in life.  Illness is a very humbling experience and the great equalizer. 

I must admit, this experience of being a patient, has reminded me of how important  my role as a doctor is in many people's lives.  I am humbled by it, and I hope it will serve as a reminder to me to continue to be as loving and caring as I can be in the face of my patients' vulnerability.

Yours truly, 

In health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe