November 9 – A Pattern of Pain

by Kali’ Rourke

I have begun my 8th year of chronic pain with Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) and finally, something is working.

I have Primary BMS. If you have no underlying conditions and things look normal, despite oral burning every day that worsens as the day progresses, but ceases while sleeping, eating or drinking…welcome to our club and our pattern of pain.

If you have the same symptoms, but you also have an underlying disorder, then you may get a Secondary BMS diagnosis. Treatment of your illness may also relieve the BMS.

When you first start burning, you will try anything. I did.

Capsaicin rinses, aloe vera juice, vitamin supplements, etc. with no relief. Compounded estrogen spray in the belief it was hormonal, Lidocaine gel, which tasted foul and merely numbed everything…None of these helped me; not even a little.

Next stop, Specialists; each with their own perspective. They can cloud the issue if you aren’t careful. See your Dentist, Family Doctor and an ENT to start. They can often diagnose and treat the “horses” of this diffuse neuralgia. Some horses are: incorrect bite, dry mouth, allergies, hormonal imbalance, geographic tongue, and even acid reflux, so see a Gastroenterologist if GERD is suspected.

Often, we end up working with a Neurologist who will rule out the horses of tumors and nerve impingement, and when everything comes back normal, he will begin to look for “zebras.” Zebras are rarer maladies and often syndromes of exclusion. In other words, everything looks fine but you are still in pain, so it must be a Zebra.

What do we do with our Zebra?

In primary BMS, there is no cure and we can only guess at cause. Hormonal changes, dental procedures, stress and more are suspected, but no one knows for certain.

For those of us who are generally healthy except for this chronic pain, there are few medications that have been shown to be effective.

I tried Neurontin and Klonopin on my neurologist’s orders. Neurontin had too many side effects, and nothing changed when I went off it. It was not helping me.

Klonopin was different. I dissolved the hard tablets in my mouth, swallowing the medicine, and although it had the side effect of drowsiness, it took the edge off my burning and helped me cope.

This summer, my latest Neurologist switched me to Klonopin ODT dissolving wafers and they have been MUCH more effective for me. I put one on my tongue and let it dissolve, holding the liquid in my mouth for at least a minute and swish before swallowing.

I am now out of pain. I still get tingling at times, but about 98% of my day is mine again. My pattern of pain is broken.

If you suffer from BMS, consider discussing this treatment with your Neurologist or Doctor.

For the first time in over 7 years, BMS is not the first thing on my mind every morning. This may be temporary or perhaps it will last, but it is a joy not to burn and I will revel in it for as long as I can.


Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer/songwriter, avid volunteer, philanthropist and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s OQM Musings.


October 7 – Lessons on Becoming Xena

by Mary Connerty

Courtesy of Photofest

Courtesy of Photofest

Remember the TV show, Xena, Warrior Princess? I loved Xena, and even have a cut-out of her in my office. I admired her strength of character and her kick-ass fighting skills. Mostly, I admired her ability to act in the face of fear. In my office the other day, I looked at my cut-out of Xena and felt ashamed that I have not been acting so bravely.

As a mom of a 15-year-old who spends a lot of time on-line, I have often talked to my son about cyberbullying. As a university lecturer, I have worked hard for 18 years to change the culture of our campus so that our many students and faculty, whose first language is not English, feel at home, and are not victimized by prejudice or harassment. So you can imagine my surprise when I realized that, at the age of 58, in a job I love, and having reached a certain level of  accomplishment, I was the victim of bullying and harassment in the workplace. Admittedly slow on the uptake, it took me too long to admit to myself that what was happening to me was, for all intents and purposes, the same phenomena that countless kids suffer through daily. Lesson 1: If it looks like a bully and acts like a bully, it’s a bully; age and station in life are irrelevant.

After beating myself up for not recognizing the situation, I gave myself permission to stop trying to make myself responsible for making a difficult situation better. I spent months trying to figure out what I had done to incur the vitriol of a pair of co-workers who insist I am trying to ruin their careers. They give me too much credit–I do not have the time, energy, or desire to focus on what others are doing. After months of losing sleep, seeking advice from wiser folks, and suffering some serious health repercussions, I finally got it–I had done nothing to these people. This was not about me, but about them – their issues, their drama. I just happened to be the target of their transference. Lesson 2: Bullying rarely has anything to do with the victim.

Like most women I know, I was raised to “make nice”. So, I trusted those well-meaning people in authority at my workplace and took their advice to not engage with these people, and, above all, keep the events confidential. Their instruction was often difficult, as I am a supervisor to the bullies; so, not communicating meant I could not effectively do my job. Worse, not being allowed to discuss the situation meant I felt even more isolated. It seemed that the more outrageous their behavior, the more my employers would give in to their demands; to my knowledge, they have never been formally reproached for their behavior. Lesson 3: Bullies will continue to be bullies as long as that behavior gets them what they want; hoping it will pass, trying to reason with them does not work.

So, here I am, in job where I have the honor of working with amazing students who look to me for guidance; however, what kind of teacher am I if I let bullies dictate how I perform my job and let well-meaning superiors decide that it’s OK to continue to allow me to be abused? Here I am, mom to a teen who I tell to be brave, strong, and honorable, but what behavior am I modeling if I continue to let myself be berated and disrespected? Lesson 4: If the bullying is not stopped as soon as it starts, the person being bullied must immediately become proactive in creating an action plan to protect herself. “Making nice” and protecting oneself are often in conflict, but not protecting oneself prolongs the situation, allows it to escalate, and leaves the bully-ee isolated and potentially even more at risk.

So the time for “making nice” is over. I have become resolute in my decision to protect and defend myself. I have researched my options, none of which are easy or pretty, and I suspect the situation will get uglier before it gets better. Though it is not my nature to seek out conflict, if I do not stand up for myself, in a loud and clear voice, no one will. I deserve respectful and safe treatment in my workplace. I hope I will have the support of my workplace superiors, but, if not, I still must persist. Like Xena, I am readying myself for battle. If I don’t, then I lose self-respect, and my life as a mom and a teacher has been a lie. I can’t live with that. Lesson 5: Xena lives.

October, as it happens, is anti-bullying month. I’m sorry it has come to this, but I am armed and ready to do battle. October also happens to be Halloween month. Guess who I am dressing up as this year?

Mary ConnertyMary Connerty is a mom, wife, Linguistics Ph.D., runner, gardener,  and writer. She is tentatively, yet daily, stepping out onto the bridge

October 5 – The Wonders of Technology

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“It’s time to get my prescription filled,” I said.

The refill would run out in a month and I would be near the pharmacy today so I dutifully followed the protocol of entering the script number, pushing number one to indicate that was my only refill, and being told electronically that I could pick this up at 1:00 p.m. Isn’t technology wonderful, I thought.

The other errand was accomplished by noon: I needed some grocery items in light of the predicted hurricane Joaquin heading for Maryland. Rain was already pelting down at a steady pace. I approached the pharmacy to inquire if, just possibly, my script had been filled.

“What’s your name?” the pharmacist inquired.

“Hollinger,” I said.

“Your birthday is 1/18?”

“No, my birthday is 2/28/39,” I replied.

“We have no record that you called Mrs. Hollinger.”

By now I am becoming a tad annoyed. “I did because I recall distinctly pushing number one and being told the script would be ready by 1:00 p.m.” I pause while they look.

“Oh yes, we found it, however your insurance is rejecting coverage.”

“I don’t understand, it always has paid in the past.”

I was shown a printout from my insurance company which indicated that the prescribing M.D. did not have the proper credentials to prescribe this drug.

“That’s bullshit,” I said. “The doctor is the medical director of a psychiatric hospital. He writes scripts for these drugs daily.”

“Well, you know, some doctors forget to renew their license to dispense these drugs,” she replied very authoritatively.

“This doctor would not maintain his status as medical director if he did not renew,” I stated in my own authoritarian voice.

The drug in question was Valium, which I take infrequently, but by now I was ready to swallow the whole script as my anxiety mounted.

“Do you want me to call your insurance company?” she asked.

“Would you please?” I responded firmly.

Minutes later her co-worker came to tell me that the error was one made by their computer. I paid $3.80 instead of the $11.00 quoted when told my insurance company would not pay.

I paddled home in my Honda FIT feeling triumphant and no, I didn’t even need to take the anti-anxiety medication from the prescription that had just been filled.

Patricia Roop Hollinger

Patricia Roop Hollinger is exploring her writing skills after retiring as a Pastoral Counselor, Chaplain and LCPC from same hospital where the prescribing doctor is medical director. She is an avid reader, musician, and lover of her cat Spunky.

September 25 – Mind Games

by Nancy Rankie Shelton

Thoughts jump into my brain
running around and around
bad ones trampling
good ones
good ones, hopeful ones,
try to grab unwanted invaders
in tight double-fisted clutches
to shove them back out of bounds.

The frantic race, the struggle
becomes so disturbing
the only way
to calm the panic
is to force
other, stronger thoughts
into the overcrowded boxing ring
my mind has become.

So I listen to audio books
blare my music
binge on Netflix TV shows
season after season in one sitting.
I plaster cracks
in the walls and
slather paint
over the repairs.

And I run.
First two miles, then four, then six, now ten.
I swim, thirty minutes at a time,
totally exhausting myself
so that when I come home
my mind will let me
read a book while
I soak in my hot bathtub.

It’s the end of September,
the end of summer,
more than three years after
Jack died.
I’m adding another hobby
designed to
overpower my brain.
I’m cycling.

My first outing with John
was twenty miles.
My second with Nick
was ten.
My next will be
with just me
to see how far I need to go
to completely exhaust myself.

All this running and swimming and cycling
has changed the way I look
to my friends.
I’m told I look great
better than I’ve looked in years.
My mirror
utters no such

My mirror reveals
increased and deepened lines
that disfigure my neck
and frame my eyes.
Skin sagging from my biceps
mark me old and tired.
Age spots tell more truth
than my friends.

And the thoughts,
good ones and bad,
keep jumping into my mind.
The battle rages
as I try to hold
onto an old self
an old life that slips away,
piece by piece.

Piece by piece I’m losing
Jack, my memory,
his belongings,
things shared
are fading and disappearing.
In tight, double-fisted clutches
I try to protect them, keeping them
in bounds, in my mind.


Nancy Rankie Shelton is a Literacy Professor at UMBC. She’s an avid reader and writer. Most of her publications are in literacy education and politics, but her first non-academic publication will be released this fall. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

September 23 – How Do I Pace Myself?

by Doris Jean Shaw

How do you pace yourself for the emotional roller coaster that illness brings?
The doctor and nurse came to the house to see how my husband Bud is doing. They had just left, after assuring me I was doing all the right things; it meant he could stay at home where he wanted to be for a while longer. Why didn’t I feel better?

Everything revolves around taking Bud’s blood pressure, giving him his meds and seeing that my husband stays hydrated. I operate on auto pilot. Thinking can put you in a mood where thoughts like “I should have” and “what if” crowd in and take over. I avoid that rut if at all possible.

Things take longer and I struggle not to get frustrated or overwhelmed. Our morning routine of breakfast, meds, and shower takes over two hours at least and must be completed in time for my husband to watch his favorite TV show. The day is half gone and I have not had time to sit down and drink my coffee. How do I pace myself for the long haul? I just take it one task at a time and not worry about what comes next.

Next, is lunch. My husband has become a picky eater, only wanting things he can hold without using a utensil. A nap and a beer round out the afternoon. Where has the day gone? When I start getting him ready for bed it takes between 40 minutes and an hour. Occasionally, I let myself get down but I just have to remind myself of the alternative to get back on track.

If you are a care giver and need some support try “Help Caring for the Caregiver” on Facebook.
Doris Jean ShawDoris Jean Shaw is a life coach, educator, author, and member  of The Ink Blots. She presents workshops that help anyone find direction; and writes about her travels, children’s stories, devotionals and romances. When not traveling Doris continues her life-changing transformation journey to self-discovery. She blogs at

September 11 – Balloons Rising

by Doris Jean Shaw

Enjoying breakfast, my eyes drift to the window. “Is that water tower moving?” I get up and go to the balcony to get a better look. The round part of the top seems to be ascending toward the heavens. Standing there, I spot more spheres popping up. The sun above the horizon bounces off the spheres and I see a dozen hot air balloons at various heights from the earth. Each balloon decked out in an array of colors from bright orange and yellow to purple and blue, rises toward the sun.

I take my coffee to the patio and watch as the balloons rise from the earth, and drift off to dot the sky with colorful blobs. “I’m not sure I would want to be that high and be at the mercy of any prevailing wind.” It tickles my fancy but the sensible person inside defies me to do it. I once saw a balloon that would go up but a rope anchored it to the ground so you could not float off. Curious about the floating since I love to float in the water but I know I can only go so far. Does that mean that I want excitement within limits?

So much for the all that psychological stuff. I sip my coffee and enjoy the daring of others as a breeze comes up and disperses the balloons like throwing dice on a table, the balloons scatter. I tackle clearing the table with a smile. What a glorious way to start the day! Wonder what will cross my path tomorrow?

Doris Jean Shaw

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. She presents a workshop, entitled “Reclaiming Me” that helps others find direction for their futures.

August 22 – The Tiny Life

by Sally Nielsen

What does a turtle do or think about while inside its shell? Is it only concerned about when it’s safe to stick its head out of its shell or does it contemplate its life while inside it? Today I feel I might be a turtle.

This year two of my close friends and several of my acquaintances have started new life journeys. They are consumed with house details. One moved from a split level into a smaller house on her new husband’s large wooded lot. Another friend is building a new house with a forest preserve behind it; it has tiny closets and a tiny yard. Another is moving into a cabin in the woods. One has locked up her delightful condo and moved into the home of a poor Peruvian Andes family for ten months of Peace Corps work.

I’m not going anywhere and my life in a busy neighborhood in a large sprawling North Florida city seems routine and small-minded. I felt I should strike out on my own, show some moxie and become a fiercely independent lioness of older womanhood. Should I buy a tiny house and live off the grid in some out-of-the-way woods? Never mind that I have a ton of friends and children who care about where I live.

I have spent a great deal of time looking at YouTube videos of tiny houses–in particular those tiny house dwellings built by people who prefer to live off-grid. In one an interviewer exclaimed “It’s amazing!” constantly. Using the sun to heat your house in the north woods was amazing and bucketing water into the house was a sign of ultimate independence.

I began to realize tiny house life demands constant personal focus on its details. When tiny house dwellers video their spaces they use monotone voices. They speak of their challenges with patience and forbearance. And sighs. Although they will share a friendly selfie their videos view life from the eyes of a turtle inside its shell.

Doctors have discovered I have what appears to be a tiny lump in my left breast–a cancerous one. As I begin to make my way through the bewildering levels of cancer detection and treatment, tininess obsesses me. Let this one lump be microscopically tiny. Let it be solitary and let it have no grid, I pray. I fight against the impulse to retreat into my hard shell but the fact is I have dozens of people outside my shell–connections who have been through this and experts who are willing and able to help me.

As I caress my breast, promising it that I will try all I can to keep it there, I realize I already live in a tiny house that requires attention. I need my doctors, my nurses, my family and every one of my friends. I am grateful for my grid.

Sally Nielsen is a life writer who lives in North Florida.