Mosquitoes Be Gone, Your Itch Ain’t That Strong 

So, my husband and I decided to barbecue over the weekend. I was super excited to sit outside and enjoy a nice burger or two. All the while, forgetting that my blood to a mosquito is what Pepsi is to the average American. 

I’m super prone to bites and typically end up covered in them. These suckers didn’t disappoint. Between my legs and my arm, I’d gotten about 10-12 bites. Yeah, what great fun! It’s had been two days and itch was unbearable. I’d tried alcohol, hydrocortisone, aloe vera gel, essential oils, calamine lotion and everything else one could think of. Nothing worked. I started to feel like I was going nuts. 

I got on the internet and started searching for ways to get rid of the itch. Page after page, all I could find were suggestions I had already used that didn’t work. 

Finally I came across one raised my brows. A blow dryer. The theory behind this was that heat deteriorates the protein that causes itching when mosquitos inject it under your skin. It was speculated that the method has more to do with the short lived effect of heat on nerve endings. 

I was pretty skeptical because it sounded pretty random and to be frank, stupid. At this point, I was ready to try anything. The itching had me ready to slice bites off (Morbid I know, can’t help the way my brain works!)

I plugged my dryer in and went to work. Surprisingly enough, it worked. I didn’t feel anymore itching for at least 4 hours, which was huge to me because the discomfort was endless.

This is pretty brilliant. Almost everyone owns a blow dryer. The relief was instantaneous. You don’t have to add any chemicals on to your skin. You also don’t have to worry about ointment and creams rubbing off on clothing, furniture, bedding, etc… 

Here is what I did: I took the blow dryer and put it on high heat. I aimed the hot air in the direction of the bite, keeping the blow dryer about 10 to 12 inches away from my skin. 

I own a professional, salon quality blow dryer that gets very hot. I had to hold it from a good distance to avoid burning myself. If your blow dryer isn’t as strong, you can bring it closer to your skin. 

You want to feel a tingle in the area where the bite is. It will feel like someone is scratching for you (weird, I know). Once you feel that sensation, stop. Do not leave heat the bite long enough to burn yourself. You don’t want to singe your skin off (Yeah, I was considering it too). You want to get it hot enough, then remove the heat. You’ll find immediate relief that will last for hours. 

I hope this tip helps some of you in distress from these pesky bites as well. My only regret was not finding out sooner. So, run over to that blower and zap the itch away. And, if you find yourself with the opportunity, aim the dryer at your blood sucking friend. 

Tea Is Magic

Hey! Welcome back bitches! 

Now, before you get all tight assed and offended by the word bitch, I did warn you all. I am pretty unorthodox and can be crude and vulgar. I don’t care for censorship either. My writing is a direct reflection of myself. I authentically communicate with my audience the very way I would speak to a close friend and that is my exact intent. 

Consider it a term of endearment, because it’s truly nothing but love. Those of you who return and take the time to read my work hold a very special place in my heart and I am always humbled by your responses. Thank you, once again. Now, back to our scheduled program! 

I love home remedies. In my years of dealing with a plethora of health issues, I don’t like to take medicine unless my symptoms are completely insufferable and I NEED to function. Otherwise, I prefer much more to treat myself with something natural that works on healing the issue VS masking the symptoms with chemicals. 

 Tea holds a special place in my heart. My abuelita (grandmother) believed whole heartedly that tea was the magical elixir. She swore it cured anything from anxiety, heartbreak, stomach problems, colds… you name it, the cure was always tea. Turns out, homegirl knew her shit. My tea collection is stocked like a medicine cabinet!

Let’s start with Abuelita’s favorite: Chamomile. This was the tea my grandma used as the antidote to all problems. This popular tea is exceptional at combatting anxiety, insomnia, burns and scrapes, dark circles, lightening blotchy skin, muscle spasms, digestion issues, and finally reducing the chances of breast and thyroid cancer; what is there not to love? 

Ginger tea makes me smile. It’s one of my favorites. I usually turn to this when I have an upset stomach or am congested. It completely opens up my sinuses. The spicy sensation that is accompanied with ginger is felt in your stomach as you drink. You are physically feeling this tea at work as it settles your stomach. It’s also said to help fight cancer, manage glucose levels, improve circulation, reduce arthritic inflammation and even relieving menstrual cramps.  

Smooth Move from the brand Traditional Medicinals (My favorite brand!!) is awesome as well. This baby helps to relieve constipation. Its main ingredient is senna leaf, a plant native to Northern Africa well know for being a natural laxative. Unlike over the counter laxatives, this is super gentle and usually painless. Drink a cup before bed and you’ll typically experience comfortable bowel movements the following morning. 

Organic Weightless from Traditional Medicinals is a goodie. This tea is used to treat bloating and water weight gain. The herbal blend contains diuretic properties that help expel an over abundance of water, bringing you back to a relieved state and a flatter tummy. 

Need some energy? Is caffeine typically too strong for you to handle? Looking for a healthier alternative? Grab yourself a cup of green tea. Green tea has about 35-70 mgs of caffeine VS coffee which contains 100-200 mgs. Green tea also has a multitude of advantages as well. Green tea can assist with weight loss and targeting belly fat, balances blood sugar levels, helps prevent and destroy lung, colorectal and prostate cancer, while preventing skin damage and is loaded with antioxidants.

Peppermint tea is not only refreshing AND delicious, but is excellent for boosting concentration, congestion and sinus relief, reducing fevers, eliminating bad breathe, relieving stress, issues with digestion, as well as calming painful migraines and headaches. 

Echinacea Plus from Traditional Medicinals is perfect for detoxing the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and glands. It boosts your immune system, shortens the duration of colds, reduces symptoms of allergies, relieves urinary track infections and even helps alleviate ear infections. This tea is literally a speed healer!!! 

In conclusion, tea rules. No doubt about it. It’s inexpensive, natural and has so many undeniable health advantages. If you prefer to take a more natural approach to your health or really enjoy home remedies, I’d highly suggest trying some of the ones I listed above. So, go on and get your tea on, pinkies up! 

Disclaimer: Tea or any other natural remedy does NOT take the place of seeing a medical professional. If you have severe, persistent symptoms, please see a doctor. If you have any prominent health issues, consult with your doctor before trying different teas. Teas usually come with warning labels, just like medicine. Just make sure to read the box and don’t be afraid to do your own research as well. 
 

The Pain No One Talks About 

Sexual Abuse. Just those two words cause people to cringe, wince and shudder. Anyone that knows me well has heard me say that it’s one of my worst fears. Statistics show 1 in every 4 women will have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That is a lot of women. I’ve known this fact for a while and it’s always made me wonder about the hidden pain the women in my life may be struggling with but are too ashamed to talk about. 

I wasn’t completely positive as to what the term “Sexual Abuse” implied. I always thought it was another reference to rape. Rape, which is every human being’s nightmare. However, I never realized the multitude of ways a person could experience sexual abuse. 
According to New York Sexual Assault Laws, sexual abuse is defined as subjecting another person to sexual contact without the latter’s consent. 

New York Penal Code Section 130(3) further defines “sexual contact” to include “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party,” and touching of the actor by the victim, as well as the touching of the victim by the actor, whether directly or through clothing. 

This information swirled into my head and wouldn’t go away. Something about this “revelation” gave me a sense of awareness I’d never had before. What was worse, I couldn’t deny relating to some of the criteria listed. Following the immediate pang of pain I felt, I started reflecting on my entire life. From childhood to present time. 

From the ages of 11 to 13, I was bullied by a classmate of mine. He ridiculed me in front of all my classmates. From my hair being frizzy, to my legs being skinny. He made sure to tell me everyday how ugly I was. While no one was watching, he would grab and fondle my breasts, my butt. Even as far as going under my skirt. I wasn’t a person. I was an inanimate object for him to grope, yet a punching bag he simultaneously degraded. I remembered feeling worthless yet unjustified for my hurt feelings. I thought this was normal. Maybe this is just the way boys behaved, and it was acceptable. 

When I was 17 years old, my boyfriend insisted I sleep with him. It wasn’t our first time. I just didn’t want to. Although he wasn’t physically aggressive, he persisted. He became verbally pushy and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I bent over and allowed him to have his way with me. 

I remember that night, feeling spaced out while this happened. Those same feelings of hollowness flooded through my body. I gave in. I didn’t want to, but I did. Why? Because this is the way men behaved, I thought to myself. They want sex. If you’re in a relationship with a man, you had to have sex. Whenever they wanted. Men have needs, I thought to myself. This is only expected. If not, they’ll seek it elsewhere. So I spared my needs for his. Even at my own emotional expense. 

When I was 18 years old, an old boyfriend of mine and I decided to have sex. He put on a condom and we proceeded. When we finished, I realized he was no longer wearing a condom and had ejaculated inside of me. When I asked him why he removed it, he said it was because I was on birth control. It’s fine, don’t worry about it, he said. He didn’t ask, and if he had, I would’ve said no. He didn’t see the issue in this. I felt violated. I felt deceived. I felt betrayed. But again, felt completely unjustified. I thought to myself “He’s right. I am on birth control. It’s no big deal”. I put my feelings on the back burner and again, dismissed them as nonsensical. 

When I was 21, I went to a house party. I’d had way too many drinks and I needed a bed and some sleep immediately. I’d made arrangements to stay over and was to sleep in one of the bedrooms with my friend. 

The whole night, this man tried talking and flirting with me. I told him I was not interested several times and left it at that. I went into the bedroom I was to sleep in and knocked out immediately. 

I woke up a few hours later. The room was completely dark. I felt someone nuzzled next to me. I assumed it was my friend, who I was supposed to be sharing a bed with. I found myself shivering and asked my friend to either turn off the fan or grab a blanket. I slurred the words, still intoxicated from all the drinking I’d done only hours before. 

I felt someone get up, and flick on the light. It was the same man I’d told to leave me alone. He was in his boxers. I remember feeling alarmed and angry. I did not invite him to bed with me. I thought he was disgusting and wanted nothing to do with him. 

I found myself too drunk to protest. I opened my mouth to confront him, but my body felt almost paralyzed. My mouth felt too heavy to find the words to say and the walls around me spun. I could only manage to slump my head back and slipped into my drunken slumber. 

I found out my friend had been knocking on the door all night. Apparently, the door was locked. I couldn’t have done that, because I KNOW I entered that bedroom alone and did not invite anyone in. Had I locked it behind me, I would’ve been in that bed alone. I had pajamas on, and I didn’t feel any pain or signs of forced intercourse. I decided it wasn’t a big deal and laughed it off because that felt better than trying to figure out what happened. Till this day, I have no idea what this man might’ve possibly done to my body while I was unconscious. 

Years after, I was dating a man who I was happy with. We were sexually active and satisfied with each other. We’d talked about sex very openly. The topic of anal sex came up. I’d never tried it. I didn’t want to try it. I’d told him I wasn’t comfortable with it. I didn’t know that I ever would be. That if he pressured me into doing it when if I wasn’t ready, I would resent him. 

 We had so much fun together. We would constantly go out, and our night life was active. We came back home after many drink one night. I slightly remember coming home and agreeing to have vaginal sex. I remember flashes of the experience. 

The following morning when I woke up, he told me how much fun he’d had. How much he enjoyed himself. He told me he digitally penetrated me anally. This was after I told him how uncomfortable I was with it. He sat there and boasted about how much I enjoyed it. 

I sat there and all I could feel was ashamed, violated and defiled. I never agreed to this. He never asked me for permission. Had he done so, my answer would have been no. This deeply bothered me, considering the talk we’d had beforehand. He knew how I felt and still crossed my boundaries. 

This became something that would happen every now and then. It was usually when I was drunk, too intoxicated to even understand what was being done to my body. My stance on anal sex always stayed the same. Yet on those drunken nights, those rules seemed not to matter to him. Just like all the other mornings, he’d brag about how great it was. Again, how much I enjoyed it. 

I felt humiliated, used. Bothered that my body was again being regarded as an object. His enjoyment trumped respecting my limitations. I didn’t matter enough to be asked and considered. So, I did what I’d always done in the past. Shrugged it off and laughed because confronting a pain I didn’t understand the root of was frightening.  

Society labels women as liars immediately when they come forward with claims of sexual abuse. They are blamed. They had it coming. They led him on. They are met with skepticism. They are exaggerating. They aren’t remembering things correctly. Society has conditioned women who go through these things to believe it’s no big deal. 

Society has also conditioned men to seize what they feel they are entitled to. They are congratulated for their conquests, regardless of the circumstances and are left with no responsibility. So, that’s exactly what many of them do. With no regards for anyone else because there has never been a consequence to pay. 

Both writing and acknowledging that the experiences in my life coincide with the criteria of sexual abuse stings. I thought this was normal. I thought for a long time, being objectified and being treated like someone’s rag doll was just a part of the experience that came with being with a man. 

I write this for women who may think the way I did. This isn’t excusable. This isn’t acceptable. You are not someone’s rag doll. You are not obligated to engage in anything you don’t want to do, no matter how much guilt you’re made to feel. You mean more. Your needs mean more. You are more. Your pain is valid. 

My Thoughts On Caitlyn Jenner

On Wednesday, 7/26/17, the President of the United States of America TWEETED that he would be reinstating the US military ban on transgender people. Honestly, this didn’t surprise or disappoint me. From the moment Donald Trump was elected, I knew to expect all sorts of crazy shit. 

Shortly after, Caitlyn Jenner tweeted in response “There are 15,000 patriotic transgender Americans in the US military fighting for all of us. What happened to your promise to fight for them?” She also retweeted President Trump’s tweet from 6/14/16 “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs!” 

Here are my thoughts on this: 

Caitlyn Jenner is intriguing to me. She is a republican. She supports a political party, that frankly, wants nothing to do with her, LBGTQ community, or anything else that isn’t traditional or conventional.

She publicly supported Trump. Donald Trump, who in Jan 2016, told interviewer Chris Wallace on Fox News that he would “strongly consider” appointing new justices who would overturn gay marriage. She was in favor of Trump, who chose Mike Pence as his Vice President. Mike Pence, who was in charge of an organization that published a journal article, declaring homosexuals unfit for military service. Who once supported “gay conversion” with the use of electroshock therapy. These are the candidates Caitlyn willingly and proudly approved of. The information stated above can be found and proven on Snopes.com 

Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the Ellen Show in 2015. She was reluctant to support gay marriage because she’s “traditional” and a Christian (a religious group that wants nothing to do with her either). This, rightfully so, caused uproar in the LGBTQ community. 

She was oblivious and lacked compassion for those who had to transition who weren’t as privileged as she was. Those who needed to go through great lengths to transition, even resorting to prostitution in order to afford hormonal treatment and procedures. Those who were treated like shit every day on the street, even assaulted, because they bravely refused to conform to what society wanted them to be. Yet, compared her struggle to the struggles of the average trans person. So now, LGBTQ community doesn’t care for her much. 

I suspect her speaking out has more to do with redeeming herself in the public eye VS giving a shit. 

Caitlyn Jenner, you can’t complain about what President Trump is doing if you handed him your vote. You were all about making American great again, clearly forgetting that you were a man then. Not something that society and the government regard to be nothing more than a psychological disorder and laughing stock. You forgot you are now a part of a community America still hates.

America was never great to the LGBTQ community, minorities, or even women. The rights that these groups have now, were not the outcome of an epiphany the government all of a sudden had. No one woke up and said “Hey! Let’s stop treating people like garbage. Equality for all!” 

No. They were earned and fought for vigorously. Something you know nothing about because these are struggles that never pertained to you before. Where was the outrage when women and minorities were constantly disrespected and patronized during Trump’s campaign? Nonexistent. It took someone now nicking away at your privilege for you to say “Hey! This is an issue! You cant treat people this way!” Caitlyn, you wanted MAGA, you got it. Served to you on a piping, hot platter. Enjoy.   

The Bittersweet Power Of Evolution 

Evolution: Any process of formation and growth. 

That is the formal definition in the dictionary. There are many ways evolution occurs. Doctors and scientists have studied and taken record of all sorts of species, changing through out the years. Anatomies of all kind, morphing slowly to better suit their environment for progression and survival.

What about the evolution of the psyche? Evolution of the soul? Emotional evolution?

Many times, we as human beings become a product of our environment. Picking up on the behaviors from the people around us as we grow, whether they be good or bad. 

When children come from abusive households, there is a high chance they will mimic the behaviors they were exposed to. Some of them don’t know any different. This was their rendition of “normal.” Whether the abuse be sexual, physical, psychological, or emotional… it’s very likely the offspring of abusers will go on to repeat the same behavior organically. Frequently, this way of life becomes a cycle that is difficult to break. 

However, there are children who do grow up to think for themselves. Those who question the world around them, using their own minds and judgment. Miraculously, despite previous trauma; these people can grow up to be well adjusted adults if they’re able to move past the damage, breaking the cycle.

It’s unlearning everything you ever thought to be acceptable. Whether it be battered self image, the urge to react abusively, harmful habits; It is possible to rise above the pain and to have a happy, fulfilled life. This requires self awareness, motivation, dedication, discipline and self love. Wanting better for yourself, your family and the people you love. Refusing to become a self fulfilling prophecy. 

For these people, evolution becomes a way of life. It’s their passion, the fire under their ass, the battery that fuels them. 

Downside? You will find that those around you may not care to do the same. It may be because their background was different than yours. They might’ve spoiled and spoon fed, never being called out on their shit. They may be close minded or in denial. They even may not realize what the issue is. The truth is, they may not be as eager as you to advance. 

Many of these people have never had to fight for their survival. Many have been and are presently being sheltered and catered to. Nothing will ever challenge them to be anything, but what they are in this moment. If they are, they might not even be conscious of the fact they are a part of their own problems. They might be their own enemies 

Sadly, you’ll find yourself outgrowing people and becoming lonely in the process. People, comfortable and cozy in the seat they call life. You’ll find you no longer live similar lifestyles. You no longer have anything common. You don’t share the same way of thinking. You may also realize, you don’t want to either. You’re proud of who you are and how far you’ve come. You may love someone who needs change desperately, but is too stubborn to see it.
Unfortunately, these people are eventually better left in the dust. Whether their presence has become toxic, their lifestyle isn’t conducive to yours, they attract chaos, or they lack the maturity of a full grown adult; they’ve got to go. That may be heartbreaking, but that’s okay. Some people are best loved from afar. 

Here is what we know: We CANNOT control anyone. People will only understand you from THEIR level of perception. Someone who hasn’t struggled may NEVER have the ability to see life the way you do. Someone who has struggled may just be senseless. There is nothing you can do to help that. You can try to change someone for the better, but you may frustrate the shit out of yourself. The decision is up to them. The decision will ALWAYS be up to them. Stressing what you can’t control is stupid. Yeah, we all fall victim to it. If you learn to embrace that, I promise you’ll live a more peaceful life. 

To want to grow is to love yourself. The ability to see your flaws AND to want better? Now THAT is fucking bravery. Guess what though? Self love and self care will ALWAYS trump the presence of another person. It is not selfish, it is crucial if you aim to become the best parent, spouse, and friend. If you love yourself, you will never fear solitude. You are all you need. That right there, is the bittersweet power of evolution. 

Abuelito

I remember you. I remember your buttoned, short sleeved shirts. You wore them in all colors. Pink was your favorite. I guess you were really comfortable with your masculinity. I remember you grabbing me up in your arms. I remember us running down the stairs of our building, you holding me football style. I felt like a super hero gliding through the air. You were so strong. I was never afraid you’d drop me. My sister and I spent every weekend with you, no matter what. You made sure of it. 

I remember the beige station wagon you drove. God, I loved that thing. This was the early nineties, before anyone gave a fuck about seat belts. You’d let me sit in the huge space in the back. I remember our drives. How I’d stick half of my small body outside the car window. Breeze weaving through my curls, listening to my favorite song, “La Lambada” over and over again. You knew it was my favorite. 

I remember our adventures. You’d buy me ALL the snacks I wanted. You always bought me a coquito from the stand by our home. In the flavor cherry, of course. You knew my mother never allowed it because I would stain myself. I always came home with my upper lip dyed in bright red. By the end of the day, my white shirt was a splattered painting. Each and every color, the evidence of all the delicious crap I’d eaten with you. 

I remember the way you dressed your hotdogs. Ketchup and those orange, saucy onions on the top. I was so intrigued, eyes widening. It looked mouth watering. I asked for a bite and was so elated. It was delicious! I shouted “Abuelito, when I grow up, I wanna be a hot dog man!!!” To which you responded “Que!?! Hug dug meng!? Estas loca!?!” Till this day, I’ve eaten my hotdogs just like you ever since. 

I remember sitting on your lap as you watched tv. Remote always in your hand. I remember laying my small head on your chest, listening to your heart beat. Sniffing in that musky cologne you always wore. I always felt so safe and protected. Those moments meant the world to me. 

Then, things changed. I remember our adventures occurred less and less. Your hearty personality now replaced with a new found quietness, a silent sadness about you. I remember the adults whispering, and not being allowed to listen. 

I remember your wide stature narrow before my eyes. You became so thin. I remember sleeping over and waking up to the sound of you retching in a bucket while Abuelita comforted you. I remembered your eyes were different. Once white, now tinged in yellow. I remember how frail you’d become. I remember the large gash you’d gotten from the hospital. Stretching across your entire belly. Silver staples binding your wounded brown skin together. 

I remember hearing “The tumor was the size of a grapefruit.” I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time. I remember hearing you fight with Abuelita. You were angry. You were hurting. You shouted “I AM GOING TO DIE”. I heard it from the other room. I was bewildered and petrified; I didn’t understand. I ran into the living room, eyes welled up in tears. Looking up at you bawling, asking you if it was true. Your face, full of anguish at the sight of my sorrow. You held me and said “No mijita, I’m not going to die.”

I remember you were home less and less. I would visit you at the hospital. The plethora of tubes that connected to your body. You were their tree and they were your branches. 

I remember the day my mother took me by the hand and led me to the bathroom. She shut and locked the door. She knelt in front of me; unsure of what to say as she tucked away her own pain to keep her composure “Kristin, Abuelito is dead.” 

I remember my little heart crumbling like some useless piece of paper at the mere age of 7. My chest ached in agony. I sobbed as I said, “This is the worst day of my life.” I remember crying for what felt like forever. No more adventures, no more car rides, no running down the stairs with you “super man style.” I would never hear your heart beat again. What was colorful, now felt bleak. 

 
You were not a perfect man, but in my eyes, you were my hero. Even though you’re not with me. Even though simply thinking and speaking of you still pains me. I still remember. I will always remember. I will always remember how much you loved me. I will always feel your warmth, living in me eternally. I will never, not, miss you. Everything about you. I love you Abuelito. 

No One Gives A Fuck About Brain Flu

An episode of mania or depression feels like being sick with the flu. 

When you have the flu, your body goes out of whack. Your body felt great yesterday, today you ache all over. Your temperature was normal yesterday. Now you’re burning up like an oven. Your nose was capable of breathing in fresh air yesterday. Today, it’s clogged, runny and in pain from sneezing and wiping your nose. Your throat and lungs were fine yesterday, now the congestion is thick and you’ve coughed to the extent of vomiting. Your throat now feels like it’s been dragged against sand paper. 

Except this time, the flu is in your brain. Everything that could’ve functioned yesterday, does not today. You were energetic yesterday, today you are lethargic. You were sharp, ambitious, and funny yesterday; and today, a complete lack of focus and apathy. You could’ve felt ecstatic yesterday, yet feel the level of sadness felt when losing a loved one. You could’ve loved yourself and looked forward to the future yesterday. Yet today, hate every fiber of your being and wouldn’t give a damn about what’s to come. You could’ve felt so blessed to be alive yesterday; Today you are planning your suicide. 

Except when your brain has the flu, it doesn’t go away in about 5-7 days. You don’t know when brain flu will go away.  A day, weeks, months… Whose to say? Also, brain flu WILL come back periodically. It’s inevitable. 

When you have the flu, people feel sympathy for you. They are empathetic and compassionate. They encourage you to rest. They offer to come to your home to help you. Even cook and clean. If you need to throw up, your hair is held back. Your medicine is given to you while you rest in bed. People concern themselves about you. 

When your brain has the flu, no one cares. They assume apathy is laziness. That being withdrawn and socially anxious means you’re arrogant. When you are feeling hopeless, mentally drained, and self hatred, that you’re exaggerating, cynical and making self deprecating jokes.

Finally, when you’ve lost all will to live because your symptoms won’t go away or got worse, they will label you selfish or tell everyone they loved you so much. Yet, the last time they called you was 4 years ago. 

Imagine constantly being kicked in the gut while having the flu. Being looked at with disgust and being told to “Suck it up.” That’s what it feels like when someone has brain flu. 

That’s where we are in life. That is the extent of  our education and concern with mental illness. That’s the limit of our evolution. How does that make you feel?

How I Survived When My Body Gave Up, Part 2 

Well hello there! 

 For those of you reading my work for the first time, please check out the first part of “How I Survived When My Body Gave Up” or else this crazy story won’t make any sense and you will be left in confusion. 

For those of you who read the first part to this story and decided to come back, I want to thank you for WANTING to read the rest of my journey. You could’ve decided this shit was too long or too boring. However, you are here. For that, I am humbled.

Picking up where we left off:

After Ethan’s diagnosis, my counts dropped again. My doctor booked a bed for me at another hospital to receive the ATG treatment. I explained previously that Aplastic Anemia is believed to be an autoimmune disease, when Therefore, it is treated with immunosuppressive therapy. 

According to AAMDS.org, Immunosuppressive drug therapy lowers your body’s immune response in aplastic anemia. This prevents your immune system from attacking the bone marrow, allowing stem cells to grow, which raises blood counts. The two drugs used are ATG and cyclosporine. 

AAMDS.org gives the complete breakdown of both treatments. ATG is given by IV infusion into a vein for 8-12 hours a day, for 4 days. ATG works by killing specific cells in your immune system called T-lymphocytes — the cells that are attacking bone marrow stem cells in aplastic anemia. This allows an aplastic anemia patient’s bone marrow to rebuild its supply of bone marrow stem cells, causing blood counts to go up.

Cyclosporine prevents T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, from becoming active. Once the T-lymphocytes are turned off by the cyclosporine, they stop attacking stem cells in the bone marrow. In aplastic anemia patients, this allows bone marrow stem cells to grow back and start making blood cells again.

Cyclosporine is typically used in combination with ATG to treat acquired aplastic anemia. It is also used to prevent rejection after an organ transplant and to reduce immune response after a bone marrow transplant.

Both improve blood counts in 7 out of 10 cases. Besides that, there is no known cure for aplastic anemia but a bone marrow transplant.

When I got there to the hospital, I was given my bed and change of clothes. When my counts were checked, my bed was flattened and elevated. I had a team of doctors and nurses, preparing to place the IV in my carotid artery located in my NECK. That’s where the treatment would be administered. 

I felt them shove the IV in, along with them stitching it to make sure it stayed in place. I yelped. Not out of pain, but out of the fear. The sheer idea that something was now sticking out of my NECK panicked the living shit out of me. This was supposed to go on for at least four days. With this shit ATTACHED to my NECK? Could I bathe? Eat? Cough? WHAT IF I FELL IN THE SHOWER!?!? I kept imagining me or someone else tripping over my IV and the contents of my neck spilling and splattering everywhere. It’d be like a Dexter episode after he was done with his bloody fix. Needless to say, I was scared to leave the bed. 

The next couple of days were a blur. For four days, I was administered the ATG at night and I was given the cyclosporine pills at the same time. About 10 of them, to take all at once. Those things were the size of horse pills. They smelled too. Like a fusion of valerian root and a skunk’s anal glands. When the treatment began, I gradually found myself covered in hives followed by a fever. Typical symptoms as a result of the treatment. I was given medicine for both and they calmed down. I remember being in and out of sleep. 

The four days came and went. The piece in my neck was removed. It was more painful this time around. They cut the stitching and pulled it out. I felt it all. They closed me up. I was free to go. It felt odd to speak. I still felt the presence of that IV in my neck. The way a woman feels phantom kicks from time to time postpartum. Every time I talked, yawn, coughed or sneezed, I imagine the wound splitting open, shooting a fountain of blood.

Yes I know, morbid. Whatever. I can’t help where my brain goes. 

I was given cyclosporine to take at home for months to maintain the effects of the ATG. Everyday, I would take 10, until the doctor felt it was safe to taper off. About two weeks after the ATG and cyclosporine, there were little to no changes in my blood counts. My white blood count had risen to normal levels, but my platelets and hemoglobin cells kept dipping. I was still dependent on blood transfusions. 

We were closer to July and my oncologist was becoming impatient. She wanted to repeat the ATG again. I was only weeks away from the wedding in August. 

I refused. That treatment would shut down my immune system again completely. I wouldn’t be allowed to attend my wedding. I didn’t want to walk down the aisle with a fresh wound in my neck. I didn’t want the bruising from the constant IVs and needles on full display while I had my first dance with my husband. I wanted to make believe, for ONE day, that none of this existed. I wanted to be that bride that could say it was the happiest day of her life. Thank goodness I did.

I told her she could do whatever she wanted to me after the wedding. Otherwise, nothing was happening before. 

About a week or so before the wedding, my counts stopped dropping. They were still low, but they were maintaining themselves. From that point on, I was no longer transfusion dependent. 

We got married. I didn’t die, clearly. It was a beautiful ceremony and reception. We wrote and recite our own dorky but loving vows. They were the epitome of everything our relationship stood for. They were “us” and couldn’t have been more perfect. I danced my ass off. I needed to sit from time to time to catch my breath, but I’ve always been a party animal. I certainly got up every chance I got. There was so much love present that day. I’d never felt more blessed. 

From that point on, my counts kept going up. The white blood cells had shot up weeks before. Then came the platelets. Hemoglobin always came in last place. 

As the months went on, the hematology appointments became less frequent. My doses of cyclosporine got smaller and smaller until I was completely weaned off. Every time I went, I’d find out my counts increased. I was on cloud 9. 

So… how are things now? 

Quite swell. Ethan is awesome. He is 5 years old now. After his diagnosis, he immediately began receiving the services and therapy he required at home. By fall 2014, he was already attending a center based program and has been ever since. He loves school. He is set to start at a charter school that specializes in autism in September. He now makes eye contact, seeks out hugs and kisses. He jumps, he laughs. We have inside jokes. He sings songs and expresses his needs as best as he can for the moment. The improvement is like night and day. Alex and I are very proud of him.

As for me? 

On May 21, 2014, at the very beginning of our story, these were my counts: 

                                    Normal Range

Hemoglobin: 4            (12.3 – 15.3)

Platelets: 13                  (150-400)

White blood cells: 2.2  (4.8-10.8)

On Friday, July 7th 2017, my counts were the following:

Hemoglobin: 13

Platelets: 234

White blood cells: 7.4

Three years. It took three damned years to get them officially back to normal. Happiness could not describe what I felt. Once I built up the will to survive, my determination picked up again. There was no stopping me. I believed with every inch of me that my body could heal. I felt it in my gut. My doctor told me when my counts got better, but weren’t in normal range quite yet not to get discouraged. This was my “new” normal. Fuck that, I thought to myself. My body is strong. It took  me this far, farther than any doctor thought it would’ve. I had faith that I would only continue to heal. My gut was right. I did it. I was in remission. 

There are times when my mind flashes back. I haven’t forgotten that ATG and cyclosporine are not cures. They have the capability of putting you in remission, and that’s what it did to me. I am still very much aware that a relapse is always possible. It still scares me. I don’t want to live my life in fear though. I look forward to the future and making the best for what’s in store for me. 

Now, let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? When you read this, its possible you empathized. Maybe even shed a tear or two. 

You also may have thought this piece was dramatic. It’s possible you rolled your eyes and said to yourself “I get that she was sick and all, but why is she spilling out her guts out on the internet? Why is she putting her business out there for the world to read ?” or “Why do I need to know this? Why should I care?” 

I’ll tell you why. 

The National Marrow Donor Program states the following: 

“Every three minutes, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer. That’s more than six people each hour, or 148 people each day. Patients are searching for a cure. It could be you. A patient’s background affects matching. When it comes to matching human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types, a patient’s ethnic background is important in predicting the likelihood of finding a match. This is because HLA markers used in matching are inherited. Some ethnic groups have more complex tissue types than others. So a person’s best chance of finding a donor may be with someone of the same ethnic background.”

You read correctly. You can only be matched to someone with the same ethnicity as you.

This is the likelihood of finding a matched donor by a patient’s ethnic background: 

Caucasian: 97%

Hispanic: 80% 

American Indian: 77%

Asian: 72% 

African American: 66% 

Yup. Caucasians are the leading ethnic group donating bone marrow. So as a minority, you have much LESS of a chance of finding a donor. I can tell you by experience. I’m a Latina and out of 80%, I don’t have a match. Why? Because minorities aren’t donating. 

Did you know that aplastic anemia is most common in Asians? Yet they only have a 72% chance of finding a donor. 

Did you know that sickle cell anemia, another illness that can be cured by a bone marrow transplant is most common in African American people? 

According to The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 1 in 13 African American babies is born with sickle cell trait. Also, about 1 in every 365 black children is born with sickle cell disease. They only have a 66% chance at finding a donor. 

There are CHILDREN dying from blood disorders everywhere while there are people existing in his huge world, who have capability of saving someone’s life. YOU could literally be someone’s cure. 

You need to know this because you are not invincible. I went my whole life never being ill, taking full advantage of my health. I bet you sit there thinking to yourself, it could never happen to me. That you’re one of the “lucky ones” who will never have anything earth shattering come at you from left field. Shit, I don’t blame you. I was just like you. 

I swore nothing like this could ever happen to me. Yet it did. It did fucking happen to me. I’ve thought time and time again, “What did I do to deserve this? What did I do wrong?” Eventually, I stopped. 

At some point, you’ve got to stop dwelling on what you can’t control and directing your attention on what you can. You can’t control if you or anyone else dies by some freak accident. Whether they got hit by a truck or eaten by a shark, some things are inevitable. When it’s your time, it’s your time. That’s a part of life. 

But THIS. THIS has the potential to be controllable and avoidable. 

I hope reading about my experience moved and educated you. I hope the statistics I provided you with, gave you sense of awareness you didn’t have before. Maybe even inspired you to inquire about becoming a potential donor.

Society could use the change. We could all start by giving a fuck about each other.

Interested in information about becoming a donor? Check out 

https://bethematch.org/about-us/how-we-help-patients/be-the-match-registry/

How to have beautiful skin and a fat wallet! 

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I honestly treated my skin like shit. I would use whatever bar/liquid soap that was available at the sink. I got away with this too. I had a decent complexion and didn’t really have any skin problems. 

Things have changed since I’ve gotten older. I’m not even sure what my skin type is anymore, it was more so oily when I was a teen. Now, it’s SUPER sensitive. It’s probably close to being combination type. Dry in the forehead and cheek area, oily on the nose and the skin. 

My skin is so delicate now, I can’t use typical drug store products anymore. They either leave my skin parched or with painful, itchy rashes. The ingredients are usually way too intense.

I needed a face wash and a moisturizer, like all women do. I wear makeup. My face gets gross and greasy like everyone else’s. So I’d like to have the ability to wash my face without my skin being so dry, it hurts to make facial expressions.  Or Having a face so full of hives, I’d look like “The Thing”. 

I started looking into natural products, figuring I’d have better luck. Finally, after trying all sorts of shit, I found a regimen that worked for me: African black soap from the Shea Moisture line and good, old, cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil. I don’t favor any particular brand. 

Now, to be clear, Shea Moisture does NOT produce the purest form of African black soap. African black soap has been around for a very long time. It originated in the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and has been used for generations.

However, today I’ll be discussing the one from the Shea Moisture line, because this is the one I have experience with. I do plan on purchasing a raw bar of black soap soon and look forward to writing about it as well. 

This stuff has become a holy grail/staple item in my house. It’s great for all skin types. It cleans EVERYTHING off! Even that raccoon’s eye you got last night while getting shit faced.

It moisturizes and soothes irritated skin, while absorbing excess oil. It heals acne, troubled skin, eczema, psoriasis and so much more. You are left with clean and soft skin. It can even be used as a shampoo! I use it, and so does my husband. He loves it and his skin is oily/acne prone. I use it on my son, he loves bubble bath multiple times a day and this soap doesn’t dry out his skin. 
Although it’s not the rawest form of black soap, it’s still more natural than commercial products and is very kind to the skin. The ingredients are much more mild and natural than I’ve ever seen or purchased at a drug store. I know almost exactly what every word on the label means AND I can pronounce them! 

List of ingredients: African Black Soap Base, African Shea Butter (Certified Organic Ingredient), Oats, Aloe, Plantain Extract, Vitamin E, Essential Oil Blend, Vegetable Glycerin, Palm Ash, Rosemary Extract, Ion Oxides.
Another pro? At 8 ounces, this bar is huge AND retails at a little under 5 bucks in drugstores. I rest my case. 

Now, do I REALLY need to get into coconut oil? It’s been around for THOUSANDS of years, used by people from in the Pacific Rim and Asian countries. It’s also very much on trend for quite some time.
I’d used coconut oil on my hair and skin and loved it, but never considered it for my face. With an open mind, I tried it and surprisingly, there is nothing on the market that’s left my face as soft. It quickly absorbs into the skin, no silicone or or sticky residue. I don’t think I’ll ever use another facial moisturizer again. 

Here’s a look some of the benefits:

Its a natural antibacterial, so it may help with acne. It’s got anti-oxidants that protect against the free radicals that wreak havoc on skin and cause wrinkles. With vitamins E, A and essential proteins, coconut oil moisturizes and encourages the production of collagen, which keeps the skin firm. The medium chain triglycerides (MCT) and lauric acid in coconut help to fix damaged skin and shield against harmful UV rays.

Cost effective: Absolutely. You can get a 14 ounce jar of coconut oil for 7 bucks at Walmart. Meanwhile, there are moisturizer on the marker over double the price producing 1 to 2 ounces of product. Again, just like black soap; so many uses and lasts forever in my home. 
How do I use them?

The black soap is used like any other bar of soap. Run it under water and lather up. 

As for the coconut oil, I take a smear of it, spreading it on the palms of my hands and patting it on the areas of my face that need it the most. A little goes a long way. 

On occasion, I will mix it with an essential oil. Just a drop or two. If I find my skin is in anyway irritated, I’ll add a bit of tea tree oil in the mix. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial, so it’s great for acne, rashes, and oily skin. If I wanted something more relaxing, lavender oil is calming. Something to wake me up, orange oil can be pretty invigorating.
So, if you’ve been having some recent skin trouble, are looking for a mor natural skin care route, AND are cheap like me and don’t want to spend 85 dollars in Sephora (trying to stay budget friendly here), try this combo! You may love it just as much as I do. 

WARNING: To those with severe, acne prone skin; there have been complaints that some have developed cystic acne from the usage of coconut oil. Like everything else, anything has the potential to cause a reaction in our body. What may work for one person, may not work for the other. If you feel that the potential benefits are worth the risk, then by all means go for it. 

How I Survived When My Body Gave Up

It was May 21st of 2014. Three months before my wedding. I was 26 years old. 

“You have Aplastic Anemia” announced the doctor who would later become my oncologist for three years. My family cheered for me in the exam room. I mean, anemia HAD to be better than Leukemia. Right?

Let’s back track, shall we? I went and got a routine physical done in on May 20th. The following night, I was on the couch watching a horror film with my husband Alex and a friend. I got a phone call at about 10pm. It was a woman calling from the lab that receives my clinic’s lab work. She said she had my results and that I needed to rush to the emergency room immediately. 

I went hysterical instantly. “What’s wrong with me!? Why won’t you tell me!?” I wailed. She said she didn’t know, but she knew I was in serious danger. My husband got on the phone and yelled at the woman, more so out of fear. 

I ran down the stairs of my private house and screamed for my mother in law, Jeanette. My in laws live on the floor beneath me. My mother in law has been an RN for over 40 years. I told the woman over the phone that I was giving her permission to disclose my medical results. I couldn’t comprehend, but she might and maybe could explain what was going on. Her usual, cheery demeanor faded slowly before my eyes and was replaced by a solemn expression. I could tell she understood, but chose to stay mum. All she told me were that mix ups occurred all the time in the lab and that was probably what this was. 

I was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night without being told a thing. My mother in law wrote down some numbers and showed them to the triage center at the ER. The woman behind the counter quickly lifted her head to stare at me. Her eyes widened at the numbers scribbled on this shred of paper that I did not understand and glanced up at me again. Studying my face. I was immediately told to skip the wait and was seen by a doctor on the spot.

The sense of nervous energy and suspense from the staff, my mother in law and my husband was driving me insane. What the fuck was wrong with me?  This was bad. Why was I getting a phone call in the middle of the night about my results? Why was the ER allowing me to skip the crowd of people in the waiting area? It was like a secret everyone knew but refused to disclose. I was told my blood counts were dangerously low. That was all. I didn’t comprehend how grave the situation was. 

I was given blood transfusions and platelet transfusions on site, as well as everyday I spent during my five day hospital visit. I was shocked. Bewildered. Petrified and anxiety ridden. I was told I would be hospitalized until the doctors had a better idea of what was wrong. I was left to sit in a pool of apprehension until they found out whatever the fuck went defective with my body. 

The following day, I met the most sadistic doctor in the world. He wasn’t around me when I was first admitted. I might’ve been a patient he was responsible to check up on while doing his rounds. This was the first time we were being acquainted. 

He sat there and sneered at me while he spoke. “Well, you more than likely have Leukemia. That’s the only possible thing it could be. There IS this one other thing it could be. However, you’re better off with Leukemia. That other disease is rare. I’ve only met one guy with it, and I have no idea what happened to him. You have children right? That’s good. You’ll probably have to undergo chemo. You’ll then lose all your hair and the ability to conceive. You can always hide the hair with hats and things of the sort. You’ll also have to get a port implanted into your chest. Yes, it will leave a scar.” For a minute, he paused, as his eyes skimmed over my skin and said “No big deal though. You can tattoo over it.” 

How could he know all of this? I hadn’t even gotten the bone marrow biopsy done yet. I didn’t even have the energy to question, protest or even to be angered. I finally surrendered to the sobs that weighed heavily in my chest. Today, I hope that doctor got diarrhea in gridlock traffic.

Finally, came time for the biopsy. I was laid, face down on a hospital bed. The oncologist then created a small hole in my back, penetrating into my pelvis. A hollow needle was then inserted and like a syringe, the liquid part of my bone marrow was collected.

I cringed and bit down. I was numbed, but felt the sensation of digging. Pressure and then the odd twang of discomfort. Similar to what one feels when hitting their funny bone. This fluid would be sent to a lab, and would give the doctors the information they needed to come up with a diagnosis. 

Aplastic anemia, sometimes known as bone marrow failure is rare. This illness affects 0.7 to 4.1 out of every one million people each year, according to a report in the American Journal of Hematology. 

It shuts down your bone marrow. It stops producing blood cells. My diagnosis was idiopathic, meaning the cause was unknown. The disease ate away at my hemoglobin cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the blood. My platelets, the cells responsible for coagulating the blood. Finally, my white blood cells, which ward off infections, viruses or bacteria.

The symptoms were there. I felt fatigued all the time. I couldn’t walk down the block without heaving and feeling a jolting, lingering ache, radiating through my anatomy. A pain I’d never even felt, even during my most intense workout. My muscles were searing. I blamed it on being overweight. 

Huge maroon and indigo splotches covered my skin. Shameful stains I couldn’t scrub off. Bruising I could not explain, I didn’t recall hurting myself. I woke up with blood in my nose. I blamed it on the air being dry. 

My gums would bleed constantly when I brushed my teeth, or sometimes for no reason at all. The blood became a jelly like substance and would form by my molars. I blamed it on needing to see a dentist. The doctors and nurses asked me astonishingly “Didn’t you feel like anything was wrong?” I did. I just found a way to rationalize it all.

After doing my own research and speaking in depth to my doctors, I began to realize there was no guarantee I would survive this. That dickwad of a doctor was right. I WAS better off with Leukemia. Remember that guy he said had this “rare thing” and he had NO idea what happened to him? That guys had aplastic anemia. I had that “rare thing” 

Leukemia was much more common. There were a variety of treatments. It’s been studied extensively. No one knows what aplastic anemia is. It’s too rare to research to the best capacity. No one even knows where it comes from and if there is a cure, it’s still lying around undiscovered. 

I wasn’t given any reassurance that I would persevere. I was a guinea pig. An experiment with material doctors had never witnessed before. They didn’t admit it, but they were stoked to be treating someone with a disease they’d probably never come across again. “YOU have aplastic anemia!? Wow!” This disease, that was costing me my life, was intriguing to them. It reminded me of a season 1 Grey’s anatomy episode. 

I was sent home after my hospital visit. I was to be contacted when my results came in. My white blood count was so low, I was advised to stay home because catching a mere cold could kill me. I was told to wear a mask if I had to be around people. I couldn’t eat foods that put me at risk for contamination. I was told not to shave because nicking myself could put me in danger because of the lack of platelets. 

I saw my oncologist twice a week. Received blood transfusions several times a week. My veins were thin and had the tendency to wiggle. They weren’t very visible. I was not what phlebotomist would call “an easy stick”. They poked and prodded at the same, most accessible veins. This happened 2-3 times a week. My arms were patterned navy and crimson. Hurting to the touch and the lack of platelets meant those bruises wouldn’t be fading anytime soon. 

In February of 2014, I contacted early intervention to have my son Ethan evaluated. He was two years old. He wasn’t speaking. Made no eye contact. Didn’t respond to his name. He was set to be evaluated by a psychologist my first day back home from the hospital. This would determine if there was a diagnosis and if he would qualify for any therapeutic/developmental services. 

She observed him for no more than three minutes before apathetically declaring “He’s severely autistic”. “What!?” I exclaimed. I gazed at my son loving and sadly as he played with his beloved toy cars. I then brought my attention to the doctor. Scrutinized her. Studied her, while simultaneously narrowing my eyes. Down to her violet colored “Can I speak to the manager?” hair cut. No matter how edgy the look intends to be, it always looks like a beaver’s ass. 

I thought to myself, How much she could she know about Ethan when she spent less that three minutes with him? I wouldn’t want to give a stranger the light of day if I were Ethan too. 

As Alex walked her downstairs to say goodbye, I quietly locked myself in the bathroom. My breath began to quicken. The oxygen felt like it was leaving the room. My heart palpitating. I kneeled on the bathroom floor and gripped the sink until my knuckles were bloodless. I wanted to scream in agony. I knew nothing of autism. I didn’t run in my family, nor in my husbands. My son was doomed, I thought to myself. He would never talk. Never have the the capability of taking care of himself as an adult. He would be bullied for the rest of his life and I wouldn’t be there to protect him. I wouldn’t be around in moments where he needed love, support, encouragement, protection. I was sick. No one knew anyone who had this disease. There was no one to cling for for hope and advice. I didn’t care about the wedding anymore. From what I was hearing, I might not be alive to make it down the aisle. 

I sat on that cold, tiled floor. The only thing I could feel were my tingling knuckles. I wanted to die. I looked around in the bathroom for ways to hurt myself. I had pills. I contemplated taking a handful. Anything to stop the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced in my life. I have a mood disorder and took medication, but that was no weapon against this sense of doom and devastation that took up all the room in my chest. 

What was there to live for? According to doctors, there was no guarantee treatment would work. I had no match for a bone marrow donor. I was living off of blood transfusions. I didn’t want to live in suspense, knowing death was creeping over my shoulder and that it had the ability to envelop me in its darkness at any time. 

I called my sister and sobbed. Told her every detail. All that I was feeling. I had nothing to live for. Now, if you’ve met my sister, she’s the mega bitch. In the BEST way. An exterior as cold as ice, she’s the one you want by your side when shit hits the fan. That day, she was MY sister. 

She told me Ethan would grow up to be fine. That I would walk down that aisle. That I was young and strong. I would fight this and survive. Now, there was no guarantee that anything she said was true. That conversation probably saved my life. 

My husband found me in the bathroom. He picked my crumpled body off from the floor. He held me. Told me “That doctor didn’t know what the hell she was talking about!” He reminded me of the things Ethan was already capable of doing, taking the focus off of what he wasn’t doing. “He’s smarter than that doctor knew. We know better because we are around him all the time. He’s gonna be okay and you and I ARE going to get married. We WILL walk down that aisle. You will beat this thing. I love you and I know this in my heart.” He held me for as long as I needed to be held. Held me as I wept and soaked his shirt. His confidence gave my spirit the boost it needed.

I got up from that bathroom floor with new found determination. Now what? What are the options? For us both? All of them? What kind of therapy and services is he going to qualify for? I tucked away my pain away like a document in a file cabinet deep in my brain. The only thing to do was to get him the help he needed. To get the treatment I needed. The only option was to fight like hell. For my son. For myself. 
To be continued…