Monday, March 28, 2011

Lip Service

Wow, my hands look old!

Last week was THE week that I became adept at playing the world’s smallest violin. So much so the sound pierced my poor boyfriend’s eardrums. I was attacked by a vicious viral infection that debilitated me all week grotesquely rendering my lips to swell in inordinate proportions. The culprit: HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus-1).  I felt like a walking parasite with my oozing and blistery fish lips but the overall malaise and pain were excruciating. I did childbirth three times without pain meds, refused narcotics for my back pain, but “the herps” had me begging/pleading/whimpering for pain medication. It was as if I skidded on hot asphalt with my lips and nothing I used obliterated the searing pain. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, AND couldn’t work. 

So why share this with the entire blogger world? Because my blog is titled “…how I laugh in the face of adversity” and want to help those who have suffered or are suffering from this. When a coworker came into my office, abruptly halted, and asked "Who have YOU been kissing." I replied, "Nah, it's Botox gone awry." I desperately scoured the internet for answers and relief. I was met with “there is no cure…” and “duration of the virus lasts 10-14 days” and “try this remedy…” Working in the medical field I was surrounded by sage knowledge and advice but I wanted to scream, “TAKE THE PAIN AWAY!!! NOW!” My medical director took one look at me and said severe stress caused my ailment, shutting my immune system down. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my thorough research on the internet already told me that. All I wanted was for the pain to go away. I couldn’t fathom the people who told me they suffer from these outbreaks on a regular basis. Say what?

I used everything that was recommended: Abreva, Carmex, Lysine ointment, Listerine, Vaseline, Alcohol, Neosporin Lip Treatment, Blistex, ice cubes, and Anbesol. Nothing on the internet showed extreme swelling of the lips or accompanying migraine headaches so I pleaded with my doctor to put me out of my misery. My doctor diagnosed me with an infection on top of the regular viral outbreak. Oh lucky me! Of course! Of freakin’ course! After a Toradol shot in my butt (for instant migraine relief), steroid paste (for lips), Acyclovir (for viral infection), and Fioricet (for future migranes), I was sent home. Stupid me expected instant relief but my misery continued. I ventured to work and felt like the resident leper by the alarming looks I got from people. So I lasted 2 hours and quickly went home marking day 2 of missed work. Really? From fever blisters?! What a wuss! But the saga continued…the steroid paste burned my lips, Fioricet didn’t squash the migraine headaches, and I knew Acyclovir wasn’t a cure. I prayed for healing. I prayed for forgiveness because the remnants of Catholicism intoned an ominous warning: "You are being punished for talking so much sh*t." I finally relented and called my doctor for narcotics so I could eat and sleep.

What finally alleviated my confounding misery? Good ol’ Vicodin for the searing lip pain, Excedrin Migraine for my debilitating headaches, dabbing hydrogen peroxide on my lips, and then coating the sores with Bacitracin ointment and Carmex. It is now Day 11 of my viral infection and my mouth is almost back to normal…almost.

What can I do to prevent future outbreaks? (Because believe you me I am determined to prevent them.) First, eliminate stress or learn not to be a total freakazoid. During those sleepless, pain-filled nights, I realized no amount of bills is worth this crazy pain and ugliness. Second, stay away from long exposure to the sun. Again, my beach bum days may be over. Third, take L-Lysine supplements because the amino acid may help prevent outbreaks. Also, I plan on consuming foods rich in L-Lysine such as yogurt, salmon, liver (errrr…forget that), and spinach. Lastly, learn to recognize the symptoms and treat it quickly.

Overall, I believe the big message here is to quit stressing the small and big stuff because once a person contracts the virus it remains inactive in the body until something triggers it. I have to learn to take a step back and allow myself to relax because my body is evidently rebelling and imploding. If friends and family can’t understand that I am unable to fulfill obligations then I have to be okay with their disappointment and anger. I have to stop being my own worst enemy and allow myself to breathe deeply and sit still even when I think MY world is deconstructing around me.

For detailed information on Herpes Simplex Virus 1 click on the links below.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Japan, With Love

I posted this on my photography blog (click here) and decided not to neglect this one. Those closest to me know how deeply I am affected by global issues, events, and disasters. I tend to spread myself too thin fighting for causes that run my heart through the shredder. My boyfriend, Ray, witnesses the despair and frustration I feel when I cannot actively help those in need, stuck in an office while reminding myself to be grateful for my job. He's been the voice of reason encouraging me to focus on only one cause (which happens to be My Refuge House) as I tend to crumble from the weight of my overflowing plate. 

My heart was still grieving over Haiti when it broke again for the earthquake victims in New Zealand. I sat in my office, bawling, because I hadn't heard whether or not my friend's fiance was safe (he was). Not even a month later and I watched with dread as the rapacious tsunami greedily  consumed large territories of Japan. Imagine MY horror when I came into work the next day privy to the cavalier attitude of the people around me joking about the tsunami hitting Newport Beach. I was still reeling from the images of the devastation and know that Newport Beach isn't immune to natural disasters. It is times like those when I feel the most helpless, misunderstood, and alone. I know I am only one human being but whatever I CAN do, I WILL do. I may not be a superhero but a girl can dream, right?

For more information on what "For Japan, With Love" is about and how you can help, please go to my photography blog:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Timeless Love

All pictures taken with my iPhone

It was a torrid love affair that began before I could formulate a coherent sentence. The moment my grubby little hands laid hold on a Little Golden Book I was enchanted forever. My first love-my love for books-has only intensified in its temerity. At the age of 5 I wrote a letter to Santa Claus requesting a collection of one thing: books.To my delight the bearded old man delivered my heart's desire despite my worthiness of coal. Over the years I begged, borrowed, and stole for books. My shameless reading lust was never satiated after completing a book. I immediately began reading another before the glow of the previous adventure dissipated. In my awkward and tumultuous teen years I starved myself during lunch, saved my money, and made my parents drive me to the mall every Friday night so I could buy the latest Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys installment. (I blame that period of starvation for my stunted growth in the uhh...chest department. At least that's how I have deluded myself.) 

Before my 3 children could walk I tried to cultivate their own love affair with books, fanning the flames with nightly bedtime readings that would pique curiosities and spark inquisitive minds. Although they read and enjoyed our outings to the library and bookstores I mourned their lackluster passion for the written word. I was almost disappointed that I never had to reprimand them for reading at the dinner table, or ruining their eyesight while reading in the car, or ground them for staying up late in the dark reading a book illuminated by a flashlight. They never walked out of a library staggering with a stack of books so high that their spine was threatened with scoliosis. (I truly believe the cervical stenosis I suffer in my 40s manifested from carrying so many books.)  In my total consumption of books I defied  rules, ready to reap the consequences. But my children never risked anything for books and I was content in their obedience. My own love affair for books continued into adulthood and it contributed to my mounting debt. Barnes and Noble and Borders were the "drug" dealers feeding my unholy addiction.  When I recently learned that Borders was bankrupt and in the process of liquidation I felt as if I had just heard the news that a beloved lover contracted an incurable and fatal disease. 

In the past 5 years I've watched my niece Micaela with growing excitement. During family get-togethers half of her head was submerged in a book, oblivious to the noise indicative of the Ricaforte family. I secretly whooped when I heard she stayed up late in the darkness reading a book via flashlight. My heart pounded every time I saw the faraway look in her eyes whenever she looked up from reading and knew her mind was still embroiled in the adventure within those pages. So when her mom asked if I could take Micaela to the Cerritos Library I was extremely elated! (To see pictures of Micaela perusing books, please click here.)  I promised myself that this year I would focus on family and strengthen my relationships with the next generation. The Cerritos LIbrary was the perfect venue for familial bonding!

You see, obtaining a Cerritos Library card is darn near impossible for non-Cerritos residents. The annual non-resident fee is $100 and I decided to funnel my funds toward Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Amazon. In hindsight, $100 per year was a cheaper alternative than the thousands of dollars I've spent at other places. Although I couldn't check books out I was never deterred from spending valuable time at the Cerritos library, admiring their architecture and relishing in being surrounded by the multitudinous array of books. Can you imagine how the gears of my devious little mind cranked when I officially became Ray's girlfriend 2 years ago? He's been a resident of Cerritos for over 30 years and I still joke that the only reason I'm with him is because he holds the key to my heaven-on-earth. This breathtaking library has become my sanctuary; the refuge from the noisy world and the tranquil escape where I can edit my photos or daydream to my heart's content.  

Now it has become the hallowed ground where my niece and I can spend countless hours on a scavenger hunt for the books our hearts are set on. It is one of the sacred places where our love affair for the written word will thrive and flourish. As technology intrepidly advances and spawns a new breed of e-readers I hope Micaela and her offspring fiercely protect the spirit of books should the world feel it no longer needs them.