Tag Archives: Health

How are you feeling?” – Ugh!

I get tired of people asking me if I “feel better.” Or even how I’m “feeling.”

People don’t really want an honest answer to that. And most people don’t give an honest answer.

Fine. Ok. Good.

Those generally aren’t very honest.

I love it when people say, “It’s good to see you.”

There are a couple of ladies at church who know about my health struggles and that’s what they say when they see me. Then I don’t have to address it. And, you know, it always feels good to be seen.

Whether you’re having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day like Alexander … or you’re actually feeling really great and invincible, it’s always nice to know that people are happy to see you.

Fibromyalgia can be a fickle thing. I can feel fine for a few days, get a lot done, feel invincible. And then, bam, I’m down for the count.

I guess I don’t mind so much when people ask “How’s it going?” That doesn’t have to have an answer that relates to how I’m feeling. I can talk about work or the kids or whatever and not have to bring up my health.

It’s difficult for most of us to know what to say to people when they’re going through something, an illness, a trial, a time of difficulty.

How are you comforted, especially when there’s nothing you can do for someone?

I like a simple “hang in there.” It lets me know they’re thinking of me.

So whatever it is you’re going through … fibromyalgia like me or MS or dealing with a parent with dementia or a daughter with autism or a recent job loss … hang in there.

And remember this from Psalm 30:5 – “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” I don’t know when that morning will come, but I do BELIEVE that it will come.

Too Busy For A Heart Attack

Written by Jacki Wood in the Nodaway News Leader for Heart Health Month

More women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined. Unfortunately, this killer isn’t as easy to see. Heart disease is often silent, hidden and misunderstood – American Heart Association

The signs had been there but they were slight, hidden even. And then there were the risk factors.

But Maryville resident Jill Hardin was too busy for a stroke, too busy for a heart attack.

“Even me, who had a father who had a stroke, sat in my kitchen and said, well, gee, I can’t go to the hospital today because I’ve got to do this, this and this.”

It was two weeks before Christmas and the 66-year-old single mother of an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old was too busy to realize what was wrong until it was almost too late.

It was Saturday and she hadn’t done the laundry yet. She’d planned on going Christmas shopping later that day. And then there was the wrapping to do and Christmas cookies she had promised to make with the girls.

“I’m thinking of all of this stuff,” she said. “And I’m trying to tell myself that even though my right hand didn’t have any feeling, even though I couldn’t see, even though I couldn’t talk, that I was fine.

“I was going to be fine. Just give me a few minutes and I’ll rally”


At 66, Hardin stays very active. She plants trees, flowers and bushes, mends fences and does other outside work. She refinishes floors and paints walls, ceilings and trim.

“I’m kind of a jack-of-all trades,” she said. “And I’ve just always been very active.”

She had a few underlying health problems, but they hadn’t been enough to slow her down any or make her feel like she should.

High cholesterol that she was told to watch several years ago. But nobody had said anything about it recently.

An ocular migraine she was diagnosed with a couple of years ago. No pain, just a kaleidoscope effect she would have once in a while, but nothing really to worry about.

A pain that went from her left shoulder across her chest and to her right shoulder after carrying a heavy box a couple of years ago. She thought she had just pulled something. When the pains starting happening more frequently. she was diagnosed with acid reflux.

Chest pain this winter that she noticed only when she went out to chore on a really cold morning, but went away quickly after going back inside.

And she was tired.

She told her doctor this. But she didn’t have trouble climbing stairs and she wasn’t short of breath, so the doctor said, maybe at 66, she might consider slowing down.

“I felt good so I didn’t see any reason to slow down,” she said. “I had things to do. And I’ve never been to a doctor who was concerned about anything, and when I had a complaint, there was always some other reason.”


That Saturday morning, December 14, 2013, she had been busy doing her regular morning activities when she suddenly experienced one of those ocular migraines.

“I couldn’t see clearly. I tried to talk, I tried to continue to communicate, but I couldn’t.”

Thankfully, a friend was at the house.

“He kept saying he couldn’t understand me. I was fighting to see and I was trying to talk and then I gave up.”

She grabbed a bottle of aspirin, and when she went to get the pill out of her palm, she noticed her right hand didn’t have any feeling in it.

“We debated for a while whether to take me to the hospital or not,” she said. “I’m saying to myself, come on, there’s nothing wrong with me.”


Hardin said she wants to share her story to help other women.

“Just because you’re healthy doesn’t mean you’re healthy,” she said.

There were warning signs. One of the most important symptoms for women is exhaustion, she said.

“But how many women aren’t exhausted?”

She said a woman today generally has a job, but she also usually has most of the responsibilities in the home including meals  and laundry and running the kids to activities.

“She’s tired,” Hardin said. “And she doesn’t know when she’s really tired.”


On that Saturday morning, after some convincing from her friend, she finally agreed to go to the hospital.

“The doctor there saw a woman who was healthy having a few problems with her speech but not a lot,” she said.

He said she was probably having a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, which is when the blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a brief period of time. He told her she might have them from time to time or not at all, but he wanted her to stay overnight.

Then he called a doctor in neurology, who said she needed to be transferred to a stroke center right away.

She traveled to St. Luke’s by ambulance – after being convinced driving herself in her pick-up was not a good idea – and was swarmed with doctors who asked lots of questions about her previous diagnoses, her symptoms and her family history.

After days of testing, a double bypass heart surgery, a carotid endarterectomy (a surgery used to prevent strokes in those who have carotid artery disease) and nine days at St. Luke’s, Hardin was finally able to come home two days before Christmas.


“I was very lucky. I’m very fortunate. I think the thing that saved me was that I have always been very active.”

Looking back, Hardin realizes the signs were there.

“It was different this year,” she said. “I was slower to rally. And my enthusiasm was down.”

But being a single parent, if she didn’t do the things that needed to be done, no one else was going to, she said. So she made herself do them.

“I was tired, though, exhausted,” she said. “And I knew it was different.”


She’s now undergoing cardiac rehab through St. Francis Hospital in Maryville and realizes some changes need to be made.

But she really wants other women to learn from her story.

“I’m just glad I’m here,” she said. “And I hope I can wake up some other women because this is important. I want them to think, wow, maybe I ought to think about me for a change.”

An honest conversation about obesity

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

I have fibromyalgia. It’s a big word for a syndrome that basically means I’ve been in pain every day since 1996.

Some days have been tolerable, some rough and some downright unbearable.

It’s also basically how I became obese. Well, sort of.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I was very active growing up. I loved playing everything from soccer and softball to basketball and football. It’s also how I dealt with life’s stresses. This continued when I went to college. If I had a problem, I went out and played ball until I felt better.

During my junior year at BYU, I was probably the most active and fit I’d ever been in my life. And then one day, I woke up and I hurt everywhere. That was 1996.

Time passed. I was diagnosed. I dealt with it. Sometimes with success. Sometimes not so much.

It was several years later and dealing with a family member’s health issue that finally sent me over the edge… to self-medication. Not with alcohol or drugs. But with food.

I no longer could deal with stress by playing basketball. And so I turned to food.

I’m not going to go into all of the details, but my lifestyle had become mainly sedentary due to the pain of fibromyalgia. And that collided with my newfound solace in bad food – and a lot of it.

That was around 2001. The self-medicating continued for several years while I started packing on the pounds.

I tried a couple of times to lose weight, and had some success, but it wasn’t sustainable and I fell back into old habits.

Then in December of 2011, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in participating with her in the New Year’s Challenge at the Maryville Community Center. At first, I really only agreed so I’d be able to see her more often on my weekly trips to Maryville for work.

Then that Christmas, we traveled to Florida to see family and take our kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a great trip. But it was also life-changing for me.

The day we went to the park, we headed straight for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Everyone was excited. But as we approached the castle, my excitement turned into terror. I noticed one of those seats at the beginning of the line; you know, the ones to see if you’re too fat to fit on the ride.

I was horrified. I hadn’t been on a roller coaster in several years and wondered if I was now too fat to ride one. Well, I wasn’t, but it was a very uncomfortable situation, both literally and figuratively.

That experience probably could’ve been enough for me to want to change. But there was more.

The following day, my husband took a picture of me sitting next to his nephew’s wife. When he showed it to me, I was clearly more than twice her size. Now, in my defense, she maybe weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. But the photo spoke volumes to me.

I was obese, plain and simple.

It was a fact I already knew. But seeing it in the photo – combined with the amusement park ride the day before – struck something new deep down inside of me.

I had to make some real changes.

And so I did. Since I had already signed up for the New Year’s Challenge, I now had the commitment and accountability to help.


So why am I talking about this now, a year and a half later? Well, there are a lot of reasons.

First of all, I think it’s a conversation that needs to take place. It’s a serious health concern that many of us would rather just avoid talking about, one I avoided for many years.

Secondly, I think we all need to do a lot less judging and have more understanding for others. It’s not like one day I woke up and said I think I want to eat unhealthy amounts of bad food and become obese. Did I make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. But there were also underlying issues that led me down that path.

Lastly, it’s hard to lose weight, especially when you’re also battling another illness. Indescribably hard. But it is possible. And we need to help encourage others.

Since January of 2012, I’ve lost 80 pounds with another 20 to go to reach my goal. It’s a constant battle. Sometimes two steps forward and one back. Sometimes two or three back.

People ask me how I’ve done it but I’ve found there’s not an easy answer for that. Each journey is different because each person and circumstance is different. Because of my fibromyalgia pain, I did it mainly through changing the way I eat.

I’m not telling you my story for recognition. I’m sharing it to hopefully offer a little encouragement. It’s a story I was scared to tell but one I think is more important than my pride or my embarrassment.

Brené Brown said: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”

It has been for me. And I believe it can be for you, too.

The gift of autism: Fox family helps spread autism awareness

Creed Fox knows all about tornadoes. He knows the wind speeds of an F-5 tornado and what kinds of clouds are in the sky.

The almost 10-year-old also knows about airplanes. He knows their military branch, their engine types and who makes them.

But the little boy who loves tornados and airplanes would not ride in an elevator. He also doesn’t play with neighborhood children, struggles with eye contact, has trouble with table manners and refuses to leave the house after he comes home from school.

Creed is one of the 54.

One in 54 boys who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in 88 children will be affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and of those 88, one in 54 will be a boy. Creed was diagnosed in January 2011 at the age of 7 1/2.

Magical moments

While things may be more difficult at times for his family because of autism, it has also opened their eyes to what his mom calls “magical moments.”

“I find pleasure in watching him do things that excite him,” Maryville resident Penni Fox said. “As we were leaving school yesterday, our normal routine is to go to the post office. Well, I went a different way, which is not allowed, and we found two cement mixers pouring concrete into a newly dug basement hole.

“He was mesmerized as we talked about rebar and concrete and the workers doing the job.

“At a time before autism, I would have barely noticed the work taking place.”

Magical moments.

“Seeing things that are so unimportant to most people become magical moments to my son with autism,” Penni said. “That is the gift of autism.”


Some people don’t see it that way, as a gift. But that’s what Penni and her husband, Chuck, are trying to do. Share their story and share their gift.

That little boy who can tell you everything about tornadoes and airplanes goes into an absolute panic when he nears an elevator.

It’s his latest autism hangup, Penni said, but he’s working on it with a specialist.

“He will now step inside it as long as someone holds the ‘door open’ button,” Penni said. “Then he examines the inside for the manufacturer and the capacity, whether it says number of people or a total weight limit, and he can remember who makes many of the elevators.”

The Foxes

Chuck and Penni Fox are natives of Northwest Missouri. In addition to Creed, they have an older son, Drake.

As a toddler, Penni said Creed was reaching his developmental milestones, although at the end of the window or even months later, but he was doing some amazing and bizarre things, too.

“I knew he was struggling but nothing was obvious enough to warrant testing for autism or anything else,” she said. “He was just a little quirky.”

They moved to Maryville in 2008 when Chuck retired from the Air Force. He worked as an assistant coach for the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team with former coach, Gene Steinmeyer. (See story on Creed and the team on page A1)

“Creed started kindergarten at Eugene Field that year, but he struggled,” Penni said.


Soon, Creed received a diagnosis of dyslexia along with ADHD. He repeated kindergarten and Penni thought he was doing better, although he was still behind academically.

During the next year, however, Penni said she realized something was really wrong.

While discussing his academic performance with his teacher, Penni said she blurted out, “Do you think he has autism?”

The school district worked very hard to get a plan in place, she said, while they waited nearly four months for testing at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City and at the University of Kansas. He was diagnosed with high functioning autism.

“High functioning is the blessing in the autism diagnosis,” she said. “It means he is highly verbal, does most self care and has these out of the world understandings of the strangest things for a seven-year-old kid.”

During the early stages of his diagnosis, Penni said she kept reading about the “gift of autism.”

“At that point, I wasn’t sure it was a gift,” she said. “But it was a relief to know what was wrong with Creed.”

Toothpicks & drinking straws

Penni has chosen to work from home part-time so she can be available full-time for Creed. It means very little time away from him because he can’t be left with just anyone.

“Paying a teenager to watch TV while he plays is not a reality,” she said. “He may decide to build a recycling landfill by opening full garbage bags and burying them in the back yard.

“He might fill the bathtub with 25 plastic shopping bags to see if they float.

“He might make toilet paper sculptures in the bathroom sink then place them in areas his brother stores his possessions to dry.”

All true stories.

On the plus side, she said he loves art and anything that can become a sculpture, like that toilet paper, or even toothpicks and drinking straws.


Creed craves routine.

“He likes to drive the same route to our destination, tells me when I should get over, asks if I am watching for the exit and how fast am I going,” Penni said.

He also wants everyone else to follow rules, she said.

“It drives him crazy if Mr. Dumke keeps them just an extra minute or two past his scheduled departure time,” she said.

Creed is currently in Howard Dumke’s third grade class at Eugene Field. He is mainstreamed for special classes like PE, music and art and also has some regular classroom time. He receives speech, occupational therapy and social skills intervention.

“We are incredibly lucky to have the support we do from Eugene Field Elementary School,” Penni said.

In the early stages of this autism, he would become frustrated or agitated and have episodes of Echolalia, which is repeating random things he had heard, she said.

Now he’s focused on a six-rotation medley. He randomly shouts out digital clock times, like 5:09, and then backward, 9:05, for six rotations.

Gift of autism

Penni advocates for more support for mental and behavioral health in Maryville to help Creed and the other one in 54 like him.

“Being in this largely rural area, access to services for autism are nearly nonexistent,” she said.

She also hopes her efforts with awareness will help people understand and embrace autism.

“Our country has to understand and embrace the gift of autism and create and find suitable opportunities for these individuals,” she said. “In the right places, with the right training and support, individuals on the spectrum can be productive citizens.”

When people realize that potential, their eyes can open to see those magical moments that Penni sees with Creed.

It is the gift that is called autism.