the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Health (Page 2 of 7)

V-grrrl’s Wonderful Heart

Copyright 2010 Veronica McCabe Deschambault (V-grrrl). Image may not be copied/reproduced, online or in print, without written permission.

My good blogging friend V-grrrl is having surgery this week for atrial fibrillation of the heart.  She’s been waiting four months to have this done.

Now, God loves to throw in obstacles.   Surgery is just not enough drama.  Why not have a volcano with an unpronounceable name, Eyjafjallajökull, blow up a week before the surgery, stranding her husband in Europe until four days AFTER the the scheduled surgery?

Luckily, V-grrrl’s brother is coming down from New York to help.


Good luck, V!


V — Before your surgery, I wanted to leave you with something inspirational, something to think about in case you get nervous before the procedure.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at pep talks or new age sentiments.  Instead, I’d like to share with you this comment I received today on on a four year old post from a writer named Shane.  I think he says it better than I ever could in a stand-alone blog post.

From a comment on “Briefs or Boxers.”

What’s ironic about this is that a generation ago all guys wore plain white briefs.  It meant you were athletic and confident. Boxers were for old men and fat guys.  During the last 20 years there’s been a total reversal of this. I vote for briefs because they provide support. The sperm-count thing has actually been proven a myth, and in any case, what young guy actually wants to get a girl pregnant?  If you wear boxers your balls will hit the floor by old age. Plus, there not at all suitable for sports or anything athletic. The pendulum is swinging back towards fashionable briefs. Boxers only became popular in the early 90’s because of the baggy jeans style. They have no real function, except maybe as sleep-wear.  If a girl rejects you because of your underwear – find someone better.

Remember that.  If a girl rejects you because of your underwear – find someone better.  Translation — the wise man cares less about the material of the house, then finding a way inside!

Wait, what does this have to do with your surgery?  Well, actually nothing.  I SAID I wasn’t very good at pep talks.

Stay Strong.

Codependency Test

I found this on Wikipedia, under “codependent” —

Codependents Anonymous offers these patterns and characteristics as a tool to aid in self-evaluation.

Here are my answers.

Denial Patterns:

* I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.

Not really. I am pretty self-aware about my own emotions.

* I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel.

Not usually.

* I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others.

Oh, my god. It can be painful to worry about others.

Low Self Esteem Patterns:

* I have difficulty making decisions.

Fuck yeah. FUCK YEAH. But I have gotten much better over the years.

* I judge everything I think, say or do harshly, as never “good enough.”

In writing, yes. In life, no. OK, I lied. Yes.

* I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.

I think I have overcome this issue over the years.

* I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.

Sad, but true. Getting better.

* I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings and behavior over my own.


* I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.

I am lovable and worthwhile. To myself. Not as confident when I’m with you.

Compliance Patterns:

* I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger.


* I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same.


* I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.

Jumping off a bridge.

* I value others’ opinions and feelings more than my own and am afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own.

Not at all. I can actually be quite combative and argumentative.

* I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.


* I accept sex when I want love.

I wish.

Control Patterns:

* I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.

I worry about that. It is an annoying trait.

* I attempt to convince others of what they “should” think and how they “truly” feel.

I’ll let Sophia answer this.

* I become resentful when others will not let me help them.


* I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.

Isn’t this good?

* I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.

Nah. I should do that more.

* I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.

Striking out on sex questions.

* I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.


(on a second reading, I’m wondering if I am going down the wrong track)

Cheeseburgers in Hospitals

Thanks to everyone who inquired or sent messages and prayers about my in-laws being in the hospital at the same time. It was a very odd and tiring experience. They are both home now. That doesn’t mean that health rules the day for them, just that they aren’t at the hospital.

My FIL is still being attended by a live-in aide.

If you’ve been on Twitter during the last few weeks, you might have heard me praising the cheeseburgers at the Cedars-Sinai cafeteria, recommending that locals even go there for the culinary experience.

I just received my lab results for my yearly check-up. My cholesterol is high DESPITE already taking cholesterol medication. Hmmm… how did that happen?

I better get start controlling my stress better. Now that I know what hospitals are like, I never want to spend time there as a patient.

The Two Towers

On Thursday, I was sleeping at my friend’s house (that is another story, one in which I will avoid discussing at the moment), when I received the Bat signal.


I programmed Sophia’s ringtone as the 1960’s Batman song, because lately her calls mean someone is in trouble.

“Vartan is back in the hospital,” she said.

I wouldn’t say that I was surprised.  Even though we hired an aide, caring for my father-in-law has been difficult, especially as his decline continues.   My mother-in-law, looking ragged from the stress, still refused to place her beloved husband into a nursing home, despite the advice of doctors.

By Saturday, my mother in law was so exhausted, she was unable to visit her husband in the hospital.  I volunteered to watch over my father-in-law during the day.

It was freezing in the room.  They keep these rooms cool to prevent infection.  I wrapped an extra blanket around my shoulders.  My father-in-law was completely out of it, drugged up many times over.

I sat there, bored with listening to the whoosh of oxygen in tubes.   I went on Twitter, chatting with whoever showed up at the time.

That’s when I received the bat signal.   I answered the phone.   It was Sophia.   An ambulance was whisking her mother to the hospital.   She was having trouble breathing.

Husband and wife, both at the same hospital.   This is not that uncommon; I later learned this from one of the nurses.  For the next two hours on Saturday, I ran back and forth between the emergency room and my father-in-law’s room.

I think my mother-in-law will be OK after a few days in the hospital.   In fact, the first thing she said to Sophia when she arrived was to point at me and say something in Russian.   I assumed that she was touting me as a wonderful caretaker.

“What did she say?” I asked Sophia.

“She says you need to comb your hair.  You look like a homeless person!”

That night, I went to sleep at 7PM.

Today is Monday.  I’m currently in the Cedars Sinai Hospital cafeteria eating lunch.  My father in law is on the fifth floor of the North Tower.   My mother-in-law is on the fifth floor of the South Tower.   My father-in-law does not know his wife is so close.    It is probably better that way.

My Neck is Getting Redder

A few months ago, I struck a deal with the blogger Schmutzie.   If she didn’t smoke for an entire month, I would do at least ten push-ups a month in support of her effort.   Today, she is a model of health.

This week, I noticed that Tanis of The Redneck Mommy, another fine Canadian blogger, was also trying to stop this awful habit.   What is it with Canadians and smoking? Being a good Samaritan, I made the same bargain with her.   However, unlike the loving and good-natured Schmutzie, Tanis would only agree to this deal if there was daily verification that I was doing the push-ups, as if she was the United Nations dealing with the Iraqi nuclear program.  Hopefully, when she has completely eliminated cigarettes from her life, she will also learn to trust her fellow man.

Here is day one of my push-ups.   Notice the irony of Sophia (who is filming me with my iphone) saying that my “neck is getting redder” as I attempt my ten push-ups, even though she has no idea that I am doing this for a blogger named “Redneck.”

My Yearly “Fat” Post

I’m taking a quick break from my one week journal, after one entry! (hey, it is my blog and I can do what I want) because I’m reading all these posts lately on “fat acceptance – yes or no,” written by some female bloggers, and the tone of some of these posts — and the comments — is unsettling.

I find it odd that in the middle of difficult economic times and horrible disasters around the world, so many people are fighting online about weight issues.  Why aren’t women more supportive of each other on this topic?  I though blogging was supposed to be a meeting of the minds, not bodies.

What’s going on?!

Fat Acceptance is Bullshit
Jessica Gottleib

Coming Out

I Call Bull

Fat Acceptance
Immortal Matriarch

What if Fat Doesn’t Mean Miserable
She Just Walks Around With It

I’ve written about women and size on my blog in the past.  In fact, someone asked me recently how I ended up with a majority of female readers.  It was not my intention when I started to blog.  If you go into my archives, you will see that my first three posts were dumb little items about pop culture.

My fourth post, on March 14, 2005, was a post titled OhmyGod!  A Size 14 in the Beverly Center!

This post was my first “true-life” entry (90% truth quotient) about shopping with “F,” my “cousin from Israel” for size 14 clothes at a popular mall in Los Angeles.  This “F” was not my cousin, but Sophia.  I was still unclear at the time whether to use her real name, or even to talk about my wife at all.  I was a blogging newbie.  When I wrote this post, I was not setting myself up to be someone specifically interested in women’s issues.  I’m not a woman, but I was MARRIED to one.  I was writing it as a guy who accompanied his wife when she went shopping for clothes, and it was a pain in the ass finding clothes for her.  Very few husbands enjoy shopping with their wives, including me, and I just wanted the experience  to be painless as possible, but after shopping a few times with Sophia, I understood why men wanted to date women who are size 2.  It wasn’t because they are “sexier.”  It is because they can get in and out of Macy’s in a shorter amount of time.  The size 2 clothes are on the main floor.  The size 14 clothes are on the seventh floor, by the kitchen appliances, and the styles tend to look like potato sacks.

This post attracted six commenters, all of them women, which was six more commenters than my first three posts combined.   The rest is history.  I started viewing my readership as being largely women, and once I tasted the forbidden fruit, I just couldn’t stop.

Throughout the years, Sophia’s size fluctuated between 12-16, depending on several factors, some health related and others just because we ate too many pastries.

Every year or so, I seem to bring up this weight issue, mostly because I saw how concerned she was over this subject.  In May, 2006, I wrote a post titled “Fat People.

In this post, I compared “fat” discrimination to anti-Semitism.   The comparison was probably unfair, but the post provoked a lot of discussion.

One of my favorite posts is titled “Neilochka Sex:  Boycott the  Fashion Industry!

In the post, I make fun of the lack of support between women over this weight discrimination issue.  If you think about it, mothers will boycott Motrin for a silly commercial, but say very little about 3/4 of their peers unable to go into certain stores which only cater to certain sizes (and surprise, surprise, many of those NOT size 2 are African-American and Latina women!)  I still get angry comments on this post, usually in support of the fashion industry.  I get a sense that some fashionable women don’t think other women “deserve” to wear nice clothes.

Three days ago, I wrote a darkly “funny” post about replacing our health care system with Jillian Roberts 30-Day Shred DVDs.  Some commenters got mad at me for writing statements such as:

“The fashion industry does a better job than the medical establishment in promoting HEALTH with their healthy thin, role-models. Those who insist that “real” (read fat) women should be portrayed in ads, are not your friends. These women, so-called “feminists,” are mostly lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies wanting to promote bad health to increase profits for diet pills.”

I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings, even though I thought I was making fun of exercise fanatics.   In some circles, this is called “satire.”  You should see what some female bloggers actually SAY without being tongue in cheek.

I’m not fat.  I don’t think Sophia is fat.  Neither of us have abs that are very impressive.  I do think obesity is an issue in America.  I do think exercise is wonderful and important, and I should try to get more healthy, no matter what my weight.

I also think education is important, and if guy drops out of high school, I don’t say he is a lazy loser, because I don’t know the circumstances of his life.   I also don’t look down him because when he becomes a plumber and makes ten times as much money as me, I don’t want him laughing at me for wasting my life with this ridiculous “writing” nonsense!

Be nice.  And remember, when you get to be 75, the bigger woman will always look younger.  My size 18 mother looks 60.  Her size 2 friend with 20 plastic surgeries looks 90.

We should all exercise.  We should all eat right.  Better education, housing, and pay for all Americans will do a lot more for obesity than calling names, or dismissing people wanting to accept themselves in a society that makes them feel second class.   Rather than judging each other on weight, we should judge each other on how many orgasms we have each month.  That is a better barometer of a person’s happiness.

Finally, as I said on Twitter earlier today, “God help us if they ever perfect penis enlargement and men are made to feel as insecure as women with their weight.”

Call to Mom

Sophia has been away all week on a job, so I have been here in LA, holding down the fort, like they used to say in the days when we lived in forts.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sophia’s step-father and mother at the hospital, which is stressful because they can only speak Russian, and my knowledge of the language is limited to food related statements like “Please pass me the blini” and exotic curses such as “Fuck you, your mother, every relative in their grave, and your two favorite horses.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing on my iphone, ignoring reality.  I do know what is going on in Haiti, and I am purposely keeping my head in the sand.  I just can’t deal with the news of the scope of the disaster.  Even the Leno-Conan O’Brien drama was too intense for me right now.

Speaking of iphones — did you know that the latest Facebook update transfers profile photos of your friends into your contacts, so if one of your virtual friends actually called you up, a large photo of your friend would appear on the bright screen as the Justin Timberlake ringtone played on your phone?

Why can’t real life run as smoothly as modern technology?

Playing with my iphone has helped release some tension (video apps!  Scrabble!),  but I have been quite cranky lately.  I would love to take it out on my readers, because I enjoy that, but since I am in the middle of a PR rehabilitaion, I have decided to take it out on my mother instead.  And I have good reason to.  Sophia’s parents are a little older than my mother, and I am seeing first hand how age can slow you down to the point where the child is caring for the parent.  This is when you wake up and realize that you are OLD.  My mother is in her seventies, but — knock on wood — KNOCK KNOCK — in great health.  She traveled through a million European cities last summer.   She is more energetic than I am.   But… old age comes fast.  I see it.

Usually, my mother calls me, bugging me like a stereotypical Jewish mother, reminding me to take my cholesterol medicine, or wondering why I still haven’t made a dentist appointment.   Today, I called her up to nag her.  It was MY TURN!

“How are you feeling today?” I asked, ready to pounce.


“Didn’t you say your foot was bothering you?”

“It’s nothing.”

“I noticed in Queens that you sometimes had trouble standing up from the couch.”

“That’s because the stupid couch is too low.”

“It might be arthritis.”

“I have a little arthritis.”

“So, why don’t you see a doctor?”

“What is a doctor going to do?”

Normally, I would have given up with the questioning, but I felt as distrustful as an El Al security guard.

“Aren’t you taking yoga there?”

“Yes, every day.”

“But I know you.  You just do whatever the instructor tells everyone to do.  Speak to her.   Personally.  Tell her you want a special exercise suited for YOU.”

“Leave me alone.  I’m fine.  Did you make an appointment to your doctor yet while you are in LA?  And what’s going on with you and Sophia anyway?  Have you talked about it yet?  You can’t live like this forever…?”

“We’re not talking about me.  We are talking about you.”

“Me?  I’m enjoying life!  You’re the one who’s screwed up.  And besides, my cholesterol is lower than yours.”

“Do you know where I am going every day to visit Vartan?  This rehab clinic?  Do you know what it is LIKE in here?  It is awful.  You don’t FUCKING want to be in here.  I don’t want to FUCKING visit you in one of these places!”

“I know.  I’ve been there with my parents.  My mother was in a nursing home.  Half of Century Village ends up in assisted living.   Never put me in a nursing home.  I’d rather be dead.”

“Stop talking nonsense.  Go exercise your legs.”

“Right now?  I’m eating lunch.”

“You don’t want to EVER fall and break a hip.  Because that is BAD NEWS at your age.”

“I’m fine.  YOU need to exercise.”

“Stop being an idiot, Mom!  You’re getting old.”

“I am old.”

“You’re not old.”

“I am old.  So, if I fall, you’re not coming to visit me?”

“You’re acting a real jerk today.  Just don’t fall, OK?  And don’t eat too much deli food.  It’s not healthy.”

“I’m eating a chicken salad sandwich.  You’re the one who goes to McDonald’s.”

“We’re talking about YOU.  Sheesh!  You’re impossible!!”

Later that day, my mother called up, probably wanting to remind me AGAIN to make my doctor’s appointment.  At first, I didn’t know it was my mother because this Facebook photo appeared full screen in my iphone behind my mother’s name  —

Either this Facebook “contact” information app has a serious bug in it, or my mother really HAS been taking good care of herself in Florida!

I have no idea who this girl is in the photo.   Obviously technology is as fucked up as real life.


I’ve been feeling anxious this week.  Shaky.  Overly-emotional.  Pissed at Sophia.  Unable to work.  Frustrated at everyone on Twitter. Insulting people.

Tonight, I went on YouTube to watch some meditation videos.  I tried my best, but let’s be honest, meditation is just not me. I also found the teacher in the video rather attractive, which was distracting me.

During one of the videos, my mother walked in.  She told me about this winter hat that she saw a vendor selling on the street for five dollars.  I was not interested.

“I’m meditating!” I yelled.

She looked over my shoulder as the meditation video turned red to match the “color of the pelvic chakra.”  An Indian sitar played on the soundtrack.

“What’s going on?” she asked about the video.

“I’m not sure.  I’m trying to meditate!”

“How can you meditate if you don’t know what you’re doing?” she asked, rather logically, but still annoying

“Just leave me alone, please.  I’m trying to be peaceful.”

“Do you want me to buy you that winter hat I saw that guy selling on the street? I noticed that you don’t have a winter hat”

“Don’t buy me a winter hat. Please.”

“It’s only five dollars.  If you don’t like it, don’t wear it.”

“Can I meditate please?!”

“Go look at the hat yourself.  He has all different colors.  Scarves, too.”

After she left the room, I decided to research “meditation” on Google, to learn more about the methods of the ancient art before I watched any more useless videos.   I typed in the word, and pressed enter, and the results were all about pharmaceuticals, which is more of a modern art than ancient art.

I had accidentally typed “medication” instead of “meditation.”

I found that so amusing, that I laughed and laughed, and immediately stopped feeling anxious.

Help Cure Juvenile Myositis

badge - this blog

Kevin of Always Home and Uncool has asked me to post this as part of his effort to raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife’s birthday.


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter’s cheeks, joints and legs was something he’d never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn’t admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions — none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner — then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn’t know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter’s knee showed signs of an “allergic reaction” even though we had ruled out every allergy source — obvious and otherwise — that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift — a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago — Oct. 2, 2002 — the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter’s first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn’t tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together?  I don’t know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter’s condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or

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