Welcome 2018

While we reflect on life in 2017, we also want to strive for new ideas, new adventures for 2018.   I know for me, 2017 brought many, many new things – some that were unexpected or unplanned – many new adjustments and challenges.  I uprooted my life of 28 years in Atlanta, Georgia and made the decision to move back to Jackson, Mississippi to assist in the care of my aging mother.  In order to deal with many of Mississippi’s hardships and challenges (coming from a ‘big progressive city’, it was a real adjustment to moving to a smaller town whose people and its culture lack the progressiveness, motivation, education and seems almost stuck in time of the late 1980s), God did bless me with a decent job!  That too was another huge adjustment in my life I had to get back used to as I had been working at home/remotely since 1994!  Working at home had many, many great benefits to it.  The only drawback I encountered from working at home was social isolation.  If you’re a people person, working at home is NOT for you!  Plus, I must admit, I need some type of structure in my life.  For the first 3-4 years of working at home, I was pretty disciplined, but after that, the self-discipline went down the drain. So, coming to Mississippi did help me to get some structure back in working a ‘real job’, being around thousands of people 5 days a week, dealing with all types of personalities; it is quite interesting to say the least!  Now, I can appreciate having worked at home as punching that time clock and some other things seem so robotic now – working at home or for yourself gives one so much freedom – something I’ll never take for granted again!

Caring for an aging relative or person period brings on all new challenges as well.  It’s one that I embrace though, it is not a burden or a chore because that is my passion – always have been – since a little child.  I look forward to finally fulfilling my passion at some point in 2018.

December 2017 brought some sudden, very unexpected tragedies to some special loved ones I’ve known.  I know that we all must die of something – our day is inevitable for sure, but it’s extremely hard when it’s unexpected.

Though as a woman, a natural nurterer, and one who focuses on caring for others, I must continue to keep my own health intact.  Though I do not know the history of the two precious angels that recently suddenly and unexpectedly passed (no health issues that I’m aware of) this certainly was a wake-up call for me to get back on track to living a healthier life – especially with my many health issues.

Thank you 2017, it overall has been good, but I’m expecting and looking forward to some exciting things for 2018.  My #1 focus will be to remain healthy, hoping to actually completely get rid of some of my health challenges as well has looking forward to a prosperous 2018!

Starting Over…and Over Again – How to Stay Prepared When Disaster Strikes

It’s been quite a while ya’ll – lots of changes going on with me – so I apologize to you all that  I haven’t blogged in a few months.  Sometimes change is good – it definitely makes your spirit stronger!

So I’ve uprooted my life from living 27-1/2 years in Georgia to moving and residing in Mississippi – I came here to spend time with my mother and to assist her with the things she can no longer do for herself.  She’s doing great – especially to be 95-1/2 years old (has a birthday this month).  I’m settling in and getting use to my “new normal.”

I can definitely relate to the victims of Houston, TX and it’s devastating Hurricane Harvey.  When your life is disrupted suddenly and you have to make sudden moves it always  pays to be ready and prepared as best as can be.  Yes, there are things you’re going to miss – people you will miss – things we’ve all come accustomed to doing and way of living – but in today’s society and all of the turmoil that’s going on all over the world, we must start getting a mindset of preparedness.

We must all learn to start having a plan B, C and possibly D when plan A does not work out.  Especially when it comes to our health, medications, important documents, etc.  Way before disasters every strike, we can start by asking questions to our elderly neighbors (those who have no one to come and check on them), family members, neighbors and people with disabilities – asking them what types of medications are you taking and the dosages, asking and knowing where their Living Wills are kept.  In cases like Hurricane Harvey, lots of hospitals in Texas have had to evacuate patients and relocate them  to hospitals in other states!  Doing those types of small tasks will go a long way in assisting others when it comes to disasters – especially weather-related disasters.

I’ve only experienced being stuck inside – (“Snowmageddon” in Georgia a few years ago),  blizzards many, many years ago in my teenage years, tornadoes striking within a 1-2 mile radius of residence, hostage situation when SWAT team had to come for 4+ hours, but never have I experienced  disasters where I’ve had to immediately leave or evacuate such as floods, hurricanes nor a fire disaster.  I HAVE learned, though by watching situations like hurricane Katrina and hurricane Harvey and the fires in California that you must be prepared ahead of time for any disaster.  Your routine that you’ve come so accustomed of living for  years and years has suddenly become disrupted and you are at risk of losing everything!  This is why I emphasize to all who will listen to me that if you’re able-bodied and can work, please get yourself some type of employment where you can save your $$$!   This is why I work so hard (and will continue to work hard and save money as long as I can) because it seems as though when disaster strikes, and you’re already without money or a vehicle you have NOTHING to get you out of that disaster!  Thank GOD for places like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, nurses, doctors and the kindness of even strangers to help those who cannot help themselves!

Below are just a few items I feel are important for everyone to have and things you can do to keep yourself prepared – weeks, days months ahead of any weather-related disaster:

  • Names of all family members and their phone numbers
  • Important documents such as life insurance, burial insurance, homeowners and/or renters insurance info
  • Cell phones, portable chargers and regular wall chargers. Use your ‘notepad’ or ‘memo pad’ in your phone to keep an electronic record of your family members’ numbers, health information, etc.
  • Blankets, jackets, a few days’ worth of clothes
  • Canned ready-made, easy-open food
  • A copy of your health records, dental records, an updated list of medications and their dosages, knowledge of what chronic illnesses you may have
  • A gas can as well as a full tank of gas way in advance BEFORE disaster strikes
  • Prepare in advance to have your vehicle in tip-top condition, i.e. oil change and oil filters changed, tires rotated and aired up.
  • Its important that ALL of us – no matter what our status in life is – have some type of bank card/debit card (with some money on it!) At least if you have to move hundreds of miles from your residence, you can STILL use it anywhere.
  • Vehicle information and its insurance information
  • Enough money to get a bus ticket if you are without a vehicle (5-7 days’ ahead of time)
  • Water, water, water and more water as well as some Gatorade (to keep the electrolytes in your body

I also would suggest that if crisis should strike/affect you, always seek out counseling either through a place like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, a church whose doors are open to everyone or some type of crisis  hotline because all disasters are life-changing and can be a very traumatic experience for anyone to go through – especially for children.

My heart goes out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey – in all of Texas as well as Louisiana – and I pray that this upcoming hurricane, Hurricane Irma will not affect the US, Barbados, Bahamas or anywhere. Stay safe everyone!

This Week in Black History:

dr-_aaron_shirley_courtesy_t670Originally from Gluckstadt, Mississippi, the late Dr. Aaron Shirley was a graduate of both Tougaloo College as well as Meharry Medical College. He set his sights on a pediatric residency out of state, but was invited to apply for a training position at the University of Mississippi Medical Center by then chair of pediatrics, Dr. Blair E. Batson. After much consideration, he accepted, becoming the first African-American resident — and the first black learner in any program — at UMC in 1965. He was the first African American to accomplish this feat. For a long time, Shirley was the only black pediatrician in the state of Mississippi.

He went on to serve as a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics for more than 40 years. His career highlights include co-founding the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, which became a model for federally funded community health centers nationwide. Dr. Aaron Shirley is the founder and Chairman of the Board for the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation. The Jackson Mall, formerly a retail mall in the 1970s and 1980s, Shirley saw the deterioration of that area and mall, so decided to become committed to reviving it. In 1995, his concept soon became a reality now known as the Jackson Medical Mall, a one-stop shop health care facility for the underserved. The Jackson Medical Mall is acclaimed as one of the nation’s most unique community health care endeavors.


(I had the great opportunity and honor to meet Dr. Shirley many, many years ago as a former resident of Jackson, Mississippi, not realizing what kind of trailblazing person he would become. It’s so good to actually know someone who has made such a difference in a community as well as establishing a strong foundation, leaving a wonderful legacy for others to follow)!  Thank you Dr. Aaron Shirley.


This Week in Black History 

Dr. Charles Epps, Jr. was a medical pioneer and educator. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 24, 1930. Epps graduated magna cum laude from Howard University with a BS degree in chemistry from Howard University and received his MD degree with honors in 1955.

epps_charles_wmAt 33 years of age, Epps was appointed chief of the  Division of Orthopedic Surgery at Howard. During his tenure as professor and chief, Epps trained more African American men and women in orthopedic surgery than anyone in the world.

After Epps retired in 2001, he also served in a variety of professional organizations, including the American Orthopedic Association, where he was its first African American member.

black history month4

For the remaining weeks in February 2017, each week I will feature a bit of history as well as celebrating many African Americans who made history and are continuing to make history in the field of medicine and healthcare. You can also reach back and read my previous blogs for many great trail-blazers who paved the way for freedom, hope, change, and encouragement:  https://youempoweryourhealth.com/2014/02/02/474/


LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr. was born in 1930 in Tallahassee, Florida and grew up in Quincy, Florida. He graduated high school at the age of 15 in 1945. At the age of 22, he earned his M.D. degree from Howard University.

Dr. Leffall is an American surgeon and oncologist as well as one of the most prominent public health leaders in the fight against cancer. President George W. Bush appointed him as chairman of the President’s Cancer Panel and Dr. Leffall also led the National Dialogue on Cancer.

He was the first black president of the American Cancer Society (1978), as well as the first black president of the American College of Surgeons (1995). He served as chairman of the board of directors for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation from 2002 to 2007.

Not only is Dr. Lefall a surgeon and an oncologist, he also was a medical educator, having taught over 4,500 medical students and trained at least 250 general surgery residents.

The State of Health Insurance for 2017 – is That Prescription Medically Necessary?

A lot has happened since my last blog….which was December 2016.  Lots of ‘new’ things have taken place so far in 2017 – a new President of the United States, a new health insurance as well as a new primary care physician for me, a new Superbowl champion (well, they’re not new to champions for Superbowl, but because it’s a new year, yes a new champion for 2017).  And nevermind my opinions regarding a couple of the above-stated ‘new’ things….some things are just better left unsaid.

I am still covered by the AHA (a/k/a/ Affordable Healthcare Act and/or Obamacare) with an insurance called Ambetter. At first I was a bit skeptical about having this insurance, thinking I would not get the same quality health care as previous insurances or whether I’d keep the same physicians, but so far, so good!  My monthly premium went down which is a plus for me – going from $251/month to now $94/month plus $20/month for dental!!!  Whoo hooo!! But the best part about this so far is the prescription medications.  Folks, you won’t believe how excited I am about this. money-1270332_1280

So in years’ past, I have been taking Crestor (rosuvastatin) for my high cholesterol. I have been tried on all of the other ‘statin’ medications used for high cholesterol and they have either not did the job of bringing the cholesterol levels down or there were awful side effects that I could not deal with, so Crestor has been the only one that has cut my cholesterol levels in half and with no side effects.  Problem was that Crestor/rosuvastatin was the most expensive medication I’ve ever had to purchase.  I have paid up to $185-200 for a 30-day supply of Crestor – and that was with using GoodRx (the free prescription-saving coupons available to use when purchasing prescription medications) as well as my insurance. Last week, though I had to go through some finagling through my new primary care – or what is called in the healthcare world as medical necessity – and through my new health insurance I am only paying $1 for the rosuvastatin!  Yep, I said $1, and that goes for all of my generic-named prescriptions I’ve been using.

A portion of medical necessity in short means this: Whether it’s a prescription medication, an x-ray/MRI or cancer treatment and beyond, one must get authorization from your physician, whether primary care or specialty physician to state that it is medically necessary for the use of that medication and/or procedure.  In my case, a prescription needed to be filled and the insurance would not pay for it (many medications are not being paid through the insurance company for 2017), so then you have to go through either your primary care physician or specialty physician and have them to authorize the use of that medication. Therefore, the battle begins between the insurance company, pharmaceutical companies and the physician making the order. The insurance company wanted to know WHY I could not use the other statin medications (in which they would pay for) and my primary care reviewed my medical history and clinical documentations and explained to them that ‘she was tried on all other previous statin medications and to no avail were they effective; therefore it is medically necessary for my patient to take the rosuvastatin.’ That’s all it took – a little bickering, an authorization by my physician and a signature – and so for now – for 2017’s health insurance – I can now pay only $1 for my generic medications!

This is why I blog folks, so that I can inform you about the challenges we have in healthcare/health insurance these days and be to become proactive – empower yourself in saving yourself money and time as well as remaining healthy. I cannot speak for all health insurances, but I believe this is true for a majority of the health insurance companies. Whenever your insurance company will NOT pay for a particular prescription medication or pay for medically necessary procedure, it doesn’t hurt to ask your primary care or your specialty physician to get them to authorize what may be medically necessary, whether a particular medication or a procedure by digging deeper into your medical history.

The repealing of Obamacare for 2017? I’m not worried about it this year. It’s in place for now and since there is no new replacement healthcare plan in place as we speak, it would take months to  repeal it.  Plus there are too many people – 20,000,000 to be exact – that would be affected by it, and I’m pretty confident 20,000,000 will go kicking and screaming to the White House to keep this from happening……We shall see!


Boy, has 2016 been some kind of year! It’s been the year of political changes, more than time-811026_1920the country’s share of celebrity death’s, personal health issues for me as well as within my family – so ready for a MUCH better 2017!

2016 for me started out the 1st day of January with the news that my mom suffered a ‘mini-stroke’, so of course my natural instincts led me to literally stop what I was doing here and drive 6-1/2 hours to where she resides to care for her and get her well. I eventually ended up staying there through March, 2016. Thankfully she quickly recovered from that and is doing just fine. Because I cared for her 10 hours per day as well as me trying to continue to work my job as a transcriptionist, that in turn caused stress to my body which created a new diagnosis (along with my other health issues) called PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) or heart flutters.  That is a very unnerving feeling when you literally feel your heart beating so fast, as though it is wanting to ‘leap’ out of your chest! Thanks to my wonderful cardiologists here at Emory that they were able to pinpoint which type of heart flutters (not severe) I was experiencing and how to alleviate it. Along with the heart flutters/palpitations and further inquiry into my condition, it was discovered (according to the docs) that I suffered from anxiety…… another diagnosis to be added to my many issues.  I do have to admit that because I’m older, have experienced menopause and other life stressors, I do believe I was a bit anxious.  That diagnosis in turn subjected me to take an antianxiety medication called sertraline. In the past, I was very adamant about taking any type of anxiety/depression medications because of their side effects, but after some convincing by my primary care physician, I reluctantly decided to take it. Surprisingly, it worked very well for me!  Things that got me very uptight, didn’t even seem to matter. I actually was more alert, especially with paying attention to detail (my job as a transcriptionist) and other domestic things.  Only thing though, through my research, I discovered on my own that taking any SSRI/antianxiety medication was extremely detrimental to my glaucoma. Needless to say, I had no choice but to stop taking sertraline. (sigh)

Now by this time, it’s 6 months into 2016 and here we go with several celebrities just literally suddenly dying, either by way of heart issues, drug overdoses or something, as well as all the political hype/news of electing a new POTUS. The post-election outcome? Well, let’s just say it was startling to most in this country. It too led to people literally becoming sick, having to seek care at a hospital and/or doctor’s office!

Because I love the body’s anatomy so much, how things work in the body, the heart as well as other organs, I had taken part in a cardiac research study (which is still ongoing). One of the things I truly learned from that study was a technique in learning different types of relaxation – breathing techniques and heart relaxation.  This has been key for me in relieving the anxiety, no need for any antianxiety medication!  It is a technique I can utilize every day, 5-6 times per day. Who would’ve thought that a cardiac research study – a study of how your heart reacts to situations post a heart attack – would relieve a problem with anxiety?  That’s one of the reasons I love medicine!

It’s the eve of New Year’s Eve at the writing of this blog – praying that these last 48 hours of 2016 will just be quiet, calm and go away without any more shocking news headlines.

2017 here I come!!! I’m so looking forward to you! I’ve already made just a few small changes going into 2017 – new place of worship, change of mindset, taking measures to becoming educated and working in a new career change (still in healthcare) despite my many diagnoses – it’s all in that change of mindset and believing for better health as well as looking forward to new things as I feel I still have so much more to contribute in this world in making a difference! I’m looking forward to more peace, less drama, believing in better health and more happiness and laughter in 2017!

Health Insurance on the Rise – No surprise here!

dollar-1175293_1280Are we shocked?  No! I personally am beyond disappointed and furious at the upcoming 2017 health insurance – all across the board! It’s really almost embarrassing how we have allowed healthcare to evolve in this country.

Going back to December 2015/January 2016, I qualified for and purchased ‘Obamacare’ (a/k/a The Affordable Healthcare Act). Being that I am considered an independent contractor (IC) on my job as a medical transcriptionist (most transcription services are too cheap to consider us employees and will not cover us for health insurance or any other benefits). [Note: While temporarily being an Uber driver, I too was considered an independent contractor, but they at least offered some type of health insurance for their drivers if we so chose – which says that companies could have had it for their IC’s!] My monthly premium was $251 for a somewhat new, up and coming health insurance in Georgia (also offered in 1 or 2 other states) called Harken Health. Over these last 11 months, I can tell you that Harken Health was the elite –  the crème de la crème   of all insurances as well as health care facilities!!!  They were similar to Kaiser where they are an insurance company, as well as a healthcare facility where you can go and receive health care whether with your primary care and/or specialties). They have several offices throughout the metro Atlanta area. Their services consisted of having a ‘health coach’ – a licensed individual who was literally at your beckoning call whenever you needed them. All preventive medicine visits, i.e., vaccines, shots, even specialty office visits such as cardiologists, dermatologists, etc. – there was never a copay! OMG where does THAT exist in 2016!!

Now that the 2017 enrollment has opened, my year-long run of spectacular health care has come to a screeching halt. Harken Health (along with many other health insurance policies) have decided to leave the Affordable Healthcare Act. Because this country is so bent and bound on repealing Obamacare, along with having the greed mindset, many insurances have pulled out of the Affordable Healthcare Act for 2017 going forward. If I choose to still be a part of Harken Health (individual plan – outside of Obamacare) the price will skyrocket from $251 per month to – are you ready for this – $1000 per month premium! More than a car note. More than some rent/mortgage.  I was so infuriated by this, I guess you can say I had an anxiety attack (and/or heart palpitations) in which my heart rate rose to 127 beats per minute over the next several days. Not good for a person with heart disease.

Harken Health is not the only one. In searching out other health insurances for myself, they ALL have risen to a ridiculous price for monthly premiums. I found no policies less than $637 per month for health insurance that I would have to pay for my at my age, my health issues, etc. (They say that preexisting conditions are no longer considered, but it sure is funny that when seeking out a suitable health policy, they do ask you ‘how often will you be going to the doctor in 2017? Do you think you’ll be going to the doctor more than 6 to 9 times per year?’ Okay….why are you asking me that if you’re not considering my age and my health problems? Ugh!

So those of you who thought Obamacare was nonsense, too expensive and ‘needs repealing’, I found it to have saved me money in my prescriptions, saved me mentally in dealing with life stressors by having a knowledgeable health coach and just overall genuinely caring for ME as a person!

Needless to say I am on the hunt for new coverage as well as a new job where I will not have to be an independent contractor, or if I am one, make triple the income where I can afford insurance……Good luck with that!!!

EB Awareness Week – October 25-31, 2016

ebawarenessweek_2016logoPretty ironic that EB (Epidermolysis bullosa) Awareness week begins today, October 25th (my birthday – the day I was born with EB 58 years ago)!

I’ve written about EB here on my blog in the past – giving you my story of what it’s like to have EB. (https://youempoweryourhealth.com/2015/10/28/epidermolysis-bullosa-week-october-25-october-31/) This year for EB Awareness Week 2016, I’d like to just focus on getting people aware of EB and how to help find a cure.

In today’s world of social media, there is not so much of a ‘taboo’ in talking about EB or just suffering alone with it. That’s the one thing I DO love about social media – there are so many ways to find support, find new friends, find answers to questions  you may have had and share with people just like you – no matter what the disease! I’m so thankful to the many new friends I’ve met who knows what it’s like to live with epidermolysis bullosa. (By the way – if any of my EB’ers want to share their story, ideas, etc. this week for EB Awareness Week, message me and I’d love to publish here on my blog).

debra of America (Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America) in the United States is an organization dedicated to informing, teaching and increasing awareness for those suffering with this disease. There is also a debra International.

Show some love to these organizations and the different links to find out how you can participate in helping physicians, researchers, etc. find a cure for this incurable disease!




Medications Versus Natural Herbs/Supplements

There’s always been a great debate (at least in my world) of whether or not we should be headache-1540220_1280taking medications OR whether we should be using natural herbs/supplements to heal and/or cure diseases.

For ages, people have used what God has given us here on this earth and that is the herbal plants of the land to provide healing – herbal plants such as mint leaves, chamomile, ginger, garlic, just to name a few, as well as lemons, vinegar and whole host of other natural remedies (which are still being used today) to prevent and cure a lot of ailments.

My latest run-in with the debate of whether to use medications or supplements has really got me perturbed, to say the least. As my 95-year-old mother still warns me “don’t get on the medication merry-go-round, because you will never get off”!

So I was diagnosed 5 years ago with glaucoma, right, so of course, I was concerned in trying to save my vision by using these outrageously expensive eyedrops.  Ok, no problem. A few months ago I was diagnosed as having ‘anxiety’ (which I agree, I’ve been anxious, uptight) well, I guess just life in general (plus genetically got it from dad who too was anxious, probably on hindsight was PTSD for him), so I’m prescribed medicine for the anxiety also. After 4.5 years of having the same ophthalmologist, for a myriad of reasons (of which I won’t delve into) I decided it was time to change eye docs, so just 2-1/2 to 3 weeks ago was my first visit to the new ophthalmologist. This eye doc also specializes in glaucoma, so I went through the barrage of tests again – the process you go through in establishing a new physician. Found out the pressure in my eyes had skyrocketed!  Mind you now, I did stop taking the eye drops because it was leaving a huge crusty paste in my eyes upon awakening each morning. (had the former eye doc informed me to use artificial tears every couple of hours throughout the day to prevent the crusty paste, I wouldn’t have stopped the eye drops!) So, upon leaving this new eye doc’s office with such devastating news that my vision is worse, was told to ‘stop driving period but it’s okay to still work’.  Ummm, okay really?? I must stop driving, but it’s okay for me to still worsen my eyes by continuing to be on the computer for another 20 or 30 years?I Really doc???.  Needless to say, I decided to go home and do what I do best – research!

small-nettle-766130_1280I discovered, in reading more than 3 reliable sources that the medication I was taking for my anxiety should NOT be taken if you have glaucoma! Specifically, it should not be taken if you have angle-closure glaucoma (which is the type I have), as it will cause the angles of your eyes to become even more narrow.  As a result of my findings I decided to call the eye doctor back to question this.  They, of course, said ‘we’ll call you back on that.’ I guess they had to research it too!  Anyway,  hours later, I get the call back. They had the audacity, the unmitigated gall to say “it was okay for me to still take the anxiety medication.”!!!

At this point, I’d much rather use medicinal  marijuana than to go back taking a medication that will eventually CLOSE my angles and cause more damage to my eyes!  It’s just the bottom line – medicinal marijuana (the actual cannabis plant or cannabis oil) will help glaucoma in preventing further damage. For some people, medicinal marijuana also dramatically improves a lot of other disorders including multiple sclerosis and children with severe epilepsy. Just recently, I transcribed a chart where the physician dictated that “this child made remarkable improvement” in slowing down the amount of seizures he/she was having by using the medicinal marijuana. A lot of children have anywhere from 2 to 30 seizures per day – which is so dangerous and life-threatening every time they have a seizure.

Listen folks, I’m not here to promote marijuana, nor any specific supplement or to say that all medications are bad and should never be taken. I’m just here to help someone to actually empower your health – read, do your research, get knowledge about everything regarding your health.

Maybe I’ll finally learn and listen to my 95-year-old mother.  I mean, she is 95 years old….still here….still has all her wits about her…. and her longevity certainly didn’t come from taking a slew of medications either!!