Friday, July 12, 2019

Great Cure for Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac

Poison Ivy!
It's the season.

I don't know about you, but when I get poison ivy reaction, I get A POISON IVY REACTION!
Last time I had poison ivy, it went systemic. Anywhere I had skin was now a rash, some of it oozing. I was in a ridiculous cycle: itching like mad, take Benadryl, fall asleep, wake up itching, repeat.

It was in the middle of this antihistamine-induced stupor that I did a phone interview with a reporter about my music and I wound up talking to the guy for like 5 hours and telling him way too much about my personal life. The only thing I remember from the conversation was that 1) I told him way too much info and 2) as we were hanging up, I said "well, I told you way too much. I have to kill you now.:" (That later became a song I wrote, "I Have to Kill You Now").

I was stubbornly resisting prednisone because, although I knew it would bring me relief, I also know from experience that it causes me insomnia, weight gain and mood swings, and it also doesn't get to the root of the problem; it gets your body to stop reacting to the poison, but it doesn't help you clear the poison.

Now, please note I am not a doctor and these are just the personal choices I make when weighing pros and cons. YOU CAN DIE FROM AN ALLERGIC REACTION.

I went to the pharmacy and they took one look at me and told me to go to the emergency room.
I said no, dammit, I am not going on prednisone! There has to be another way.

So they pointed me to the homeopathic remedies, and I ended up taking Rhus Toxidendron, which is a kind fo "hair of the dog." Very tiny amounts of the toxin somehow help the body to clear it. That's the theory. (This is not the "cure' for poison ivy I am talking about- I'm getting to that!).

It took me about a month to totally get rid of the rash from the poison ivy.
I had a gig during that time. It was one of those "in the round" shows where there are 3-4 songwriters on the stage, taking turns playing songs. and I looked so awful, no one would sit next to me. In retrospect I probably should've canceled and let them go on without me, but this is me- the same person who 4 years later would have a stroke on the way to a gig then still get up and try to perform.
But that's another topic. The point of my telling you this part of the story is: poison ivy is NOT contagious.

Poison ivy is spread by the *oils* from the leaves, so if you get that oil on your clothes or garden tools or even your dog or cat, you can *keep getting poison ivy* over and over! Anything that has been in contact with poison ivy must be completely cleaned off. So, poison ivy *can* be spread, but only by contact with the oils. (You know what is highly contagious and just as annoying? Pinkeye! But I digress).

This brings me to the promising *cure* for poison ivy I recently learned about:
a cleanser that removes the oil from poison ivy/ sumac/ oak away from your clothes, tools, skin, etc.
It's called Tecnu.

Tec Labs Tecnu Original Poison Oak & Ivy Outdoor Skin Cleanser

You rub it on, wait a few minutes then wash it off, and now the oils are removed. You've gotten to the root of the problem rather than just squashing your body's reaction to it. And as far as I know, no nasty side effects and no constantly falling asleep from antihistamines. No oatmeal baths or steroids. No waiting a month for relief. And hopefully no sitting on a stage with 3 other people with empty chairs on either side of you because you look like one of those "please send money to help this poor afflicted person" commercials.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so if you can just avoid poison ivy/ oak/ sumac altogether, that'd be ideal. But 'tis the season for outdoor fun and you can't spend your whole life hiding indoors (well, I guess you can, but even if you do, other people go outside and can bring the poison oils with them on their clothes/ pets/ tools).

Wishing you an itch-free summer!

*P.S. NEVER burn poison ivy; the smoke can carry the poison into your lungs and kill you! (Thanks, Tom Reed for that reminder!)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Book review: Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins

This may seem a little odd, but I'm reviewing a book that came out in 1979.
And I've read it before, in 1994.

Why would a I review a book I read 25 years ago, and one that is 40 years old?
Because it's a great book, it's still relevant and my memory is so sketchy that any book I read a second time may as well be new to me. I remembered just enough about the book to know I needed and wanted to read it again.

A little backstory on how I found this book in the first place, then on to my review.
In 1993, I was diagnosed with lupus (SLE). I had a pretty severe bout with it, involving kidney failure, anemia, exhaustion, joint pain, hair loss, trouble eating/ digesting. At one point, I wasn't sure I was going to live.

Once I got on the prednisone and realized I was going to survive, I got my fight back, and I wanted my quality of life back. I wanted better choices than strong doses of steroids, with their nasty and serious side effects. Most likely while writing in my morning journal, or when out for a walk, I had a flash of intuition telling me to look into mind-body connection. And so I went to the library and searched under that term (remember, there was no internet in 1994).

The 2 books I found in my local library were this one, Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins, and Love, Medicine and Miracles, by Bernie Seigel (I intend to reread and review that book here as well). Both great books, both eye-opening and mind-bending, both very much worth reading.

And now, on to my review.

Anatomy of an Illness  by Norman Cousins

This book came about as a result of the author's experience with a life-threatening illness.
He was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (Bechterew's disease) and given a one in 500 chance of survival.

These dismal odds set him on the path of being proactive about his health. Being in constant agony, he could not sleep. And if you can't sleep, you can't heal. 

But somehow Cousins realized if he could get a good belly laugh, he could get two hours of actual restful sleep. So, someone wrangled a film projector for him, and some old episodes of Candid Camera (this was 1964 when this happened), and some Marx Brothers films. For this reason, he's seen as a pioneer in the field of humor and health.

Cousins also, through reading medical journals, realized the importance of Vitamin C in healing collagen (breakdown of collagen being a major part of what was happening in his body). 

He had to advocate for himself to get vitamin C therapy, and to get the film projector and films for his self-prescribed laughter therapy.

This book, however, is not a memoir. His account of his illness and recovery are a short part of the book, near the beginning. Much of the book is devoted to examples of the power of the mind to affect one's health, as well as the amazing things that can be done for "hopeless" conditions if the patient or the doctor is willing to think outside the box and look for the root cause of problems.

There are a few places in the book where he uses technical terms, and you may want to have google or handy, but it's only here and there. Mostly the book is very accessible.

Anatomy of an Illness is a book about advocating for yourself as a patient, working in partnership with your doctor, and about the power of the mind to affect one's physical well-being.

While it may seem strange for me to review a bestseller- Norman Cousins doesn't need my help in order to sell books- I found this book so valuable and empowering in my recovery that I wanted to share about it here.

40 years after publication, this book remains as relevant as the day it first appeared on bookstore shelves.

Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient (Twentieth Anniversary Edition)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Seeking Female Teen Lupus Patient in Newark, NJ area

Friday, April 28, 2017 
One Girl with lupus, Custom Designed  
Prom Dress in Newark, NJ area:

A young and upcoming designer, Christopher, would like to honor his mother and sister, who both battle lupus, by designing a prom dress for one young lady with lupus in the Newark, NJ area. He needs about 3 weeks to take measurements and complete the dress. He also has a makeup designer who would also donate their services to complete the look. The fittings would take place at a store/boutique in Newark. Please RSVP as soon as possible or by the end of next week, May 5, 2017.  If you know of someone who would be interested please contact the lupus Lenny at 973.379.3226, or email us at, Topic : Prom Dress.
Please pass this to anyone who you think might be interested. 
Thank you,
Lenny Andriuzzi
President and CEO
Lupus Foundation of America,
New Jersey Chapter, Inc.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Flint, MI Water, hope for lead poisoning victims

Flint, Michigan's lead-tainted municipal water is big news. And it should be.
For over a year, government officials knowingly poisoned the people they suppoedly represent by supplying them with lead-contiminated water.

According to, "General Motors had announced in October 2014—six months after Flint started getting its water from the Flint River—that it would no longer use the water because it was corroding its equipment. Imagine what it was doing to people's bodies."

That's pretty despicable. Immoral. And, I hope, Illegal.
And I really hope they are rectifying it immediately, by supplying these people with clean water.

As to the future of these citizens, here's where I disagree with the majority of people writing about this.

According to activist and filmmaker Michael Moore,

"The children of Flint, already among the poorest in the United States, will now have to endure a life of pain, irreversible brain damage, and lower IQs because of Gov. Snyder's actions and the ensuing cover-up.

Justice must be served—and other elected officials must be put on notice that people's lives are more important than balancing a budget."

I agree with this statement: Justice must be served.
However, I disagree with the notion that lead poisoning is irreversible.
It is not.
Last century, a number of our military personnel were poisoned with lead when painting battleships (the paint contained lead and they inhaled lead-laden fumes while working).

In the wake of this, modern medicine discovered/ created "chelation therapy," an IV treatment that, at least in adults, is very safe.

I personally have had chelation therapy twice. Twice, meaning 15 treatments in 1994, and 20 or so treatments in 2002. In my case, my system was found (through blood and hair samples) to contain lead and nickel the first time, and arsenic and nickel the second time. These heavy metals were removed from my system via chelation therapy. My kidney function went back to 100%, after I was told they would fail within 5 years.

*Chelation therapy was invented to treat lead poisoning, and it is very effective.*
Children do not have to settle for a lower quality of life because they've been poisoned; this poison can be cleared from their systems.

(Of course, first they need to stop being poisoned by the water they are drinking, cooking, and bathing in).

There are cheaper ways to clear heavy metals from the system, and they do not involve long hours sitting in a chair attached to an IV drip. For example:

chlorella for metal poisoning

I support those activists fighting to get clean water and restitution to these people, but true restitution means getting them their health back. And that can be done.
Look for solutions, always, Do not remain a victim if there is another choice. And in this case there is another choice; lead can be removed from the body.

I do not sell chlorella or chelation therapy and have zero financial interest in Chlorella or chelation therapy. I just fell it's really important to let people know they do have the power to heal, despite what they may be told.

And if we are going to fight for these people, let's go all the way and fight for them to get clean water AND get their healthy children back. And the Governor can pay for these treatments. It really is the least he can do.

Carla Ulbrich

Thursday, January 14, 2016

See a doctor or therapist without leaving your house!

Need to see a doctor for something minor (cold, UTI, flu), but you don't want to leave the house? Now you can do that! In fact, you can even do therapy via video conference, without even getting out of your PJs. 

How do I know? 
I recently realized I need some solid grief support (my father died December 5 and I spent most of his last week on earth with him, helping him through the process of dying). I definitely need more help than I can get from friends and Facebook (and I don't really want to talk about my grief process on facebook. Some troll is bound to turn it into a political argument).

I googled and clicked for hours, with no results (other than the suicide hotline), looking for a bereavement group. So I decided to go ahead and look for a professional counselor.

But I just couldn't deal with the idea of setting up an in-person appointment, waiting a month (or longer), driving through godawful New Jersey traffic (in the freezing cold) and sitting in a waiting room with everyone else's germs/ neuroses/ iphones. And then, what if the counselor is a bonehead? I still get charged some huge fee and have to start all over again. What to do?

I was up late (as usual- my insomnia has returned) and saw a commercial for "Doctor on Demand" app. Apparently everyone else already knows about this, because Dr. Phil started it. I thought, "what a great idea! You can just go online and see a live doctor via video conference right away!" (When I watched the Jetsons as a kid, that idea seemed impossible!). So that led me down a rabbit's trail look at various online apps and websites, and I'll share my mini-reviews of each here.

Doctor on Demand: It's an app and a website. Best use: contact an MD, anytime, 24/7, for basic issues like common cold, sinus infection, UTI, etc. and they can even write you a prescription. They also have a small batch of psychologists, but not very many, and the psychologists are NOT on demand 24/7. You have to make an appointment.

My computer is too old to use their website, so i got the app. I set up an appointment with a psychologist but at the time of the appointment, I was never able to connect to her via the app. I spent the entire time on the phone with customer support, troubleshooting, while the psychologist was on the other end twiddling her thumbs (or playing Angry Birds. I don't know. I never got to talk to her). Total fail. So, at the suggestion of tech support, I set up another appointment, with all other apps on my phone closed, on wifi. Again, could not connect, wasting the Dr.'s time and mine. I asked if I could set up a test appointment with tech support to get the app to work, They acted like that was a weird request and as of a week later, they have never got back to me to do so. I wasn't holding my breath. Moving on...

Bottom line: don't use Doctor on Demand for a psychologist- it's not their strength. And I'm not impressed with their customer support. I hear it's very helpful if you have a non-crisis medical issue, such as a UTI, the flu, a cold. You'll save yourself a trip, a wait, and some money. You can find a coupon code for a free first visit, if you google around for one. The one on the TV commercial was "EASY."

Talk space: This is specifically psychological help. App where you message back and forth for a weekly fee (unlimited, but you have to wait for a reply- could take hours). Once I realized it was just basically texting, but with long delays, I realized this is not what I wanted or needed at this time. I need a higher level of support right now.
Bottom line: definitely not useful for a crisis. And no video/ faces.

Betterhelp: website and app. Again, it's just messaging. They do specifically match you with a counselor based on your answers to a questionnaire, so I like that feature. I may go back to this, as they found me someone who's into using creativity as a tool for working through stuff. But having to wait a long time to get a response, and sometimes a very short response, is disappointing, esp. considering the fee. (weekly rate). They do have a free 7-day trial period, so you can try it out. But you have to enter a credit card to do the 7-day trial, so you'll probably have to make sure you cancel before those 7 day are up, if you do not wish to continue.

Bottom line: This one is a maybe, but not for someone who needs a lot of support.

Breakthrough: website and app. This one, I like. Like Doctor on Demand, you do a video session via the app (feels like skype or facetime). However, unlike Doctor on Demand, they were very helpful and fast about doing a test appointment with tech support beforehand, and it worked on the first try. They also have a LOT of counselors to choose from. I just had my free 15-minute consult (not all of the counselors offer that) and found someone I like and feel good about.

Bottom line: Easy to use, lots of professional to choose from, the most like normal counseling, but without the commute. The fees are per hour as opposed to a subscription. Probably covered by insurance.

It was an aggravating week trying to find help, but i finally did.
Never give up!