Get your skin checked!

A little Public Service Announcement: A few weeks ago, I had a biopsy to remove a “suspicious” mole. This was done during my annual skin check. In addition to being a child of the 70’s and 80’s who loved baby oil to get a tan, I do have a skin disease called DSAP (Disseminated superficial actinic porokeratosis). I see the dermatologist annually to check for skin changes and to keep DSAP under control (I have dozens of DSAP spots burned off yearly). I’ve always expected sun damage to lead to an issue. So I was quite surprised that a mole that I have had for as long as I can remember became “suspicious”. It was a perfect circle until suddenly, it wasn’t. Sadly, I didn’t even notice it until the dermatologist pointed it out. The biopsy results indicated a mid range level of suspicious cells, so they recommended that I have the entire mole removed through excision. It was actually a bigger process than I expected and hopefully, there will be nothing else I need to do as follow up (other than removal of the stitches.) I have to wear a big bandage, and I’m not allowed to do much for a while so it can heal. My advice to all of you…..get your skin checked. I totally missed the change in this mole on my leg. Luckily, I probably caught it early enough. Ask your GP or make an appointment with a dermatologist. Better safe than sorry.  


Dear Senator Toomey,

Dear Senator Toomey,

I’ve emailed you multiple times over the past few years and never once did it make an impact on your decision in terms of voting.  I don’t expect you to suddenly become liberal because I’ve written you a letter,  but I had hoped that you would have heard the overwhelming cries from your constituents and at least would have compromised in some way.  I’ve even met with your aides in your DC office to discuss the needs of people living with chronic illness in 2013 and 2016, only to be told that basically that there are not enough people like me (living with rheumatoid arthritis) in Pennsylvania for you to take a stand on the issue of lowering outrageous drug costs.  I also spoke about Medicare caps on physical and speech therapy.  Your staffer proudly told me that “he didn’t know anyone who didn’t get extra PT when they asked for it.”  As a speech-language pathologist, I pointed out that isn’t the case for seniors who need speech therapy following a stroke or TBI. (For those that don’t know there is a Medicare Part B therapy cap that limits coverage for BOTH speech and physical therapies at $1980.  Occupational therapy has it’s own cap of $1980).  Speech therapy is not often deemed “medically necessary” by  insurance.  Imagine that.  Not being able to communicate is not “medically necessary” in the eyes of insurance companies.  Makes total sense. (*not sure if you understand sarcasm, so I feel the need to point it out here.)

The past few years, I’ve watched my parents struggle with the cost of their healthcare.  My parents were both hard-working middle class, life-long residents of Pennsylvania.  My father was a maintenance journeyman at a factory and my mother was a small business owner.  They worked hard, paid their taxes, and hoped that they planned well for their retirement.  Unfortunately, medical costs have all but depleted their resources.  I was hopeful with the expansions set forth by the ACA that these burdens would ease.  I heard you telling your mother in a commercial that “no one would take away her medicare”, yet this Senate Healthcare bill is going to put added burden of cost on seniors who are already struggling.

The impact of individuals living with Medicaid will be even more horrific.  I grew up in a community that saw people on medicaid as “free loaders”.  This is partly a misconception.  Of course there are people who are playing the system, but more often,  people on Medicaid include seniors who require long-term care and have exhausted personal savings.  It also includes people with disabilities like those with autism, cerebral palsy, and mental illness, etc.  You are going to take care away from our most vulnerable citizens with the elimination of the Medicaid expansion.  Providing no more funds after 2024.  Have you not read that we have an explosion of individuals on the autism spectrum in this country?  Do you expect that all of their parents are millionaires?  I expect to see more people with mental illness back on the streets because they won’t be able to get the help they need.  In the worlds of Trump and Obama (finally they agree on something).  This bill is just MEAN.

I haven’t even mentioned pre-existing conditions yet.  The House bill was frightening.  The threat of waivers and “high risk pools” made me sick to my stomach.  Then I read the Senate bill.  At first glance, it looks like it will protect people with pre-existing conditions by protecting us from exorbitant costs.  Although, I fear that to make the Conservatives in the senate happy, those protections will probably disappear before the vote is cast.  There are also a lot of loopholes that I am sure I will have to learn to jump through if I want remain ambulatory (my medication is the only reason why I am still able to walk, I have no doubt).  My current medication is over $17,000 per month.  I find the cost repulsive, but it’s working for me.  I also feel guilty that I have private insurance that covers this for me, while those on Medicaid aren’t able to get the treatments they need due to cost.

I find the fact that the Senate Healthcare bill targets seniors, the disabled, and women horrific.  I did notice that there are no women who worked directly on this bill.  I’ve never had a baby, but I completely support pre-natal care and maternity/paternity leaves.  I have to laugh that men don’t want to have to pay for pre-natal and maternity coverage.  Am I wrong or didn’t all men come out of a vagina?  I’ve never had cancer, but I support the coverage of chemo and other life saving drugs, no matter the cost.  I’m not a senior citizen, but I will be some day and at the rate the republicans are going, I will never be able to afford to retire and afford medication that allows me to not only walk, but to live.  Without disease modifying drugs, my body will continue to shut down.  I’ve already had damage to my skin, kidneys, arteries, and heart from my disease (didn’t know arthritis did that, did you?) prior to finding the right treatments.  My medication keeps me alive.  Affordable healthcare is the only way I can survive.

The thing that I find glaringly omitted from the Senate healthcare bill is any form of regulation in place so that insurance and pharmaceutical companies can’t continue to drain the savings of millions of Americans while they continue to get rich off of our illnesses.  I know that you were earmarked by the health care industry and even received $42,125 from Select Medical Holdings.  In 2015, you also purchased $15,000 of shares in Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund.  One of their largest accounts is Pfizer, so it makes sense that you aren’t regulating the healthcare industry.  That industry lines your pockets after all.  Don’t get me wrong.  You have a right to make a living and to have a life savings.  You have a right to have donors like Betsy Devos give you lots of money.  All of these funders expect your loyalty when it comes time to vote.  You voted for Betsy Devos to be the Secretary of Education, even though the majority of Pennsylvanians did not support that appointment.  You don’t protect the people of Pennsylvania’s interests as much as you protect your own.  You are a millionaire, so I’m sure if your mother’s medical costs increase with the passage of this bill, you will be able to cover her expenses.  I unfortunately, can’t do the same for my parents.  That breaks my heart.

At the end of the day Senator, you have to live with the morally shocking cuts you are proposing to healthcare.  I don’t expect you to understand what it is like to scrape by paycheck to paycheck worrying how you are going to pay for all of your medication to survive.  I do expect you to actually listen to your constituents and at least compromise.  the ACA was far from perfect, but it was a step in the right direction to make this country healthier.  The Senate bill will leave 23 million Americans without coverage.  That sir, is a travesty.

I know that you won’t listen, but I am asking you to consider voting “NO” on the passage of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.



Kelly Conway


The Superhero inside…

I saw Wonder Woman today.  It was incredible.  As I watched the gorgeous Superhero battling the bad guys, I admit I wished I could be her.  To be tall, beautiful and a genuine badass like Diana Prince??  One can dream….

Then I thought about it and realized that I am often Wonder Woman.  I often wonder how long it will take for me to get out of bed in the morning due to a stiff back.  I wonder how much my ankle will swell and hurt while running errands.  I wonder how long it will take me to fall asleep at night as the clock ticks past 2 am and the alarm is set for 5 am.  I wonder how much pain I will have at the end of the work day.  Most especially, I wonder how this ended up being my life.

But each day, I get out of bed even if I have to crawl out of it.  I still run those errands with a swollen and painful ankle.  I get up and work a full day on as little as 3 hours of sleep.  Most importantly,  I am living my life as best I can with chronic pain.

So there you have it.  I am Wonder Woman!


Georgia as Wonder Woman 2012        #georgiathecavalier

Review: The Gupta Programme™

I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

I was really excited when I was asked to review the Gupta Programme. I have previously done meditation classes and one intensive course and have always felt that meditation was a good way for me to center myself and help manage my pain. The Gupta Programme™ is a treatment for these illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME or CFS) and Fibromyalgia. The website also it treats several other medical conditions . You can read more about this treatment and the other illnesses they treat on the Gupta Programme™ website. The program was developed by Ashtok Gupta who claims to have suffered from CFS/ME for three years before he claims to have gotten himself  “100% better”.  Note, he is not claiming he is cured, rather 100% better and has been for many years.  Ashton has spent the last 15 years researching his treatment program and has published his research findings here.  The more I read about Ashtok, the more skeptical I felt.   I am always skeptical of “cures”.  At this point, I wasn’t sure what to think about this program.  I tried to keep an open mind and these are my findings.

Firstly, Ashtok is a charming and genuine man.  He truly believes in his program and has obviously dedicated many years to making it a well thought out and planned out treatment.  The program consists of 14 interactive Videos, a supplemental material workbook, mind map, and weekly video sessions which can be viewed live (Ashtok is from London and the videos aired while I was working, so I was not able to participate in the live video sessions). You can also join a private Facebook group for post session discussion.  Overall, this 12 week program is comprehensive but flexible.  You can watch the DVDs and recorded video sessions at your leisure and complete the assignments as you go.  There are also tons of testimonials from patients who have reaped the benefits of the program.

Easy to like:

  • The program is solid.  It’s so well thought out and put together that I am positive it took years to develop.  Ashtok is well spoken and passionate about the process of amygdala retraining.  He is a gentle guide throughout this entire process.  He is also very thorough with his explanations and examples.  Sometimes, I felt like it was just too much talking, but it could be because I have done so many other meditative programs and I just wanted to “get to it”, regardless, Ashtok is great and really believes in this program.
  • Flexibility of the program.  I could not keep up with the 12 weekly groups due to work and life.  This program is comprehensive and my hectic schedule made that difficult.  I am continuing with the program at a slower pace and will continue to do so.  I also liked the rationale of amygdala retraining.  To me it makes total sense.
  • I also liked the free meditation app, The meaning of life.  It’s simple to use and a great tool.
  • The Facebook group was helpful.  I appreciated the posts from people who were struggling and/or finding success with the experience.  It is helpful to know you are not alone and it really gives a group experience even though users are world wide.
  • The program offers a 6 month money back guarantee.  I’ve read the research and although I feel it is limited, I love that they are really taking this program seriously.  There are so many snake oil salesmen out there making money off of patients.  The Gupta Programme is not doing that.

Difficult to appreciate:

  • The statement of 100% better.  Although I’m thrilled Ashtok feels that way, it makes me uncomfortable.  I feel like this is a great tool in the treatment of chronic disease and pain.  I helps you to learn to turn around your negative thoughts and focus on taking control and although I feel like the program has helped me, I do not feel like I ever reach 100% better.  Maybe that is a negative thought I need to “stop, stop, stop” (as per the program).
  • The mind map was not something I liked.  I do appreciate the fact that it brings in a more kinesthetic component to a meditation, but it is HUGE poster that goes on the floor.  I really did not fit in my living room with my furniture.  There are warnings in the program that you can avoid it if it is too slippery, so it is not a mandatory component.  Again, I appreciate the whole body involvement in the process, but this took was just too darn big.
  • As I said earlier, the program is solid but it is really comprehensive.  As someone who works full and part-time it was difficult to manage all the components of the program.  In addition to the DVDs and the weekly video sessions, there is also a workbook, journaling and weekly assignments.  These are important components to the treatment, but take time.  Honestly, I couldn’t keep up during the 12 week program; however, I am getting through it at my own pace.

Overall, I do feel like this program is helping me to decrease those negative thoughts that flood my mind in regards to my chronic illness.  I find myself more centered in my ability to push the negative thoughts away and to focus on the present.  This does help me focus less on pain (I still have pain, but I can manage it a bit better). It is a lot of work and you need to really dedicate some time to reap the benefits, but overall, if you have the time, this program is for you.  Meditation is a powerful tool for well-being and Ashtok has created a comprehensive program to help people feel better.


Check out the Gupta Program for yourself here: