On October 19th, please vote.
I stumbled across a couple of articles about a month ago that I want to share with people who are experiencing problems with severe heel pain that won’t resolve, like I’ve been. Okay, I didn’t stumble across either of these articles. I’ve been reading everything I can about plantar fasciitis for well over a year now because chronic heel and arch pain so bad that you can’t really function anymore is a big deal. Honestly, before this I didn’t realize feet could hurt so much and not be broken. I’d had plantar fasciitis seven years earlier and after a couple months of stretching exercises it completely resolved. Well, not this time. This fresh bout of plantar fasciitis was relentless and extreme, effectively taking me out of commission.

If that’s the scenario you’ve been dealing with long-term too it could help you to read the following articles I’ve linked to, and if you haven’t had an ultrasound on your feet to diagnosis plantar fasciitis and your doctor is relying on X-rays alone as proof of the condition, urge them to send you for an ultrasound—a much better tool for diagnosis as the second article explains.

* Is Your Plantar Fasciitis Pain Not Going Away? It's Probably Not Plantar Fasciitis

* Study: Heel Pain, Very Common and Debilitating, Often Misdiagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis Use of Diagnostic Ultrasound Leads to More Accurate Diagnosis

Over the past year and a half I’ve done some blogging about my health issues because they’ve been pretty impossible to ignore. I’ve had slowly worsening heel pain for much longer still, but my situation became debilitating in March/April 2014, to the point that it was difficult to get down more than a single aisle at the grocery store (the shooting foot pain!), descending stairs was often torture (weird electrical pain cutting across my kneecaps) and waiting in line at the pharmacy for five minutes felt like gravity was pummelling my heels into the ground. In short, there wasn’t a lot I actually could do.

For the longest time I was told I had plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome. I went through several physiotherapy sessions (which made the pain in my feet and knees exponentially worse) beginning in January 2014 and had foot and knee X-rays which were spectacularly unilluminating. Next I was referred to a sports doctors who watched me walk, prodded my heels and arch a bit, then suggested custom made orthotics, a foam roller for my legs, rolling the arch of my feet over a frozen water bottle twice a day, a Strassburg sock (the sock equivalent of a plantar fasciitis night splint to keep your fascia from shortening while you sleep), gave me a prescription for heavy duty pain pills that I couldn’t take because they were too hard on my already ailing digestive system (pre-existing problems), and said the only thing she could really do was give me a cortisone shot. Her diagnosis: severe plantar fasciitis which had affected my whole kinetic chain and caused my knee issues.

A couple of weeks later I had to cut an April/May 2014 trip to Dublin short and fly home early because I could hardly walk let alone be out strolling around town, sightseeing (I could barely handle the stairs at my mother-in-law’s house for cripes’ sake!) and the same sports doctor, when I showed up at her office feeling desperate, insisted I should’ve been able to handle the trip, literally threw up her hands and said there was nothing else she could do for me. I turned down the again offered cortisone shot which I’d read could cause more problems than it cured and which my GP had warned me she wouldn’t want herself. But as per the sport doctor's advice I went ahead and had $500 custom orthotics made by a professional pedorthist who analyzed my gait, then adjusted those same orthotics four times over four months for me because DAMN they hurt something treacherous, only to find at the end of that period the super duper expensive insoles STILL hurt my heels so much more than if I were wearing the Superfeet insoles I’d previously bought from the Running Room (and which I still use and find helpful now).

Desperate to make headway and get my mobility back I relegated the custom made orthotics from hell to the back of my closet and in late August 2014 I began radial shockwave therapy, a treatment which supposedly helps 80% of chronic plantar fasciitis cases but instead rocketed my feet into a new level of pain that lasted for five days after each of the four treatments before ultimately returning me to my previous baseline level of OUCH.

Nothing worked for me. Nothing. Not the radial shockwave therapy treatments. Not physio. Not the daily stretching exercises for my feet or strengthening exercises for areas around my knee. Not the foam rolling. Not the hellish night splint sock that only seemed to destabilize my knee further so that sometimes I’d have to hold the kneecap in place when I got up from a seated position. Not the massage therapy I went for at the local hospital where the massage therapist admitted she didn’t believe she could help me and mentioned that my feet didn’t feel to her as though I had plantar fasciitis. In fact, she told me if I hadn’t given her any explanation, from the feel of my legs she would’ve thought I had fibromyalgia rather than plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome.

Instead of feeling better over time things got odder, strange sensations—weakness, numbness, and pain up and down my legs, not just in my feet or my knees. All through this, over months and months, I was constantly revisiting my GP who sent me for bloodwork, more bloodwork, yet more bloodwork, a nerve conduction study and EMG, and a vascular study. And all through this it was difficult to stand for any length of time but nearly as difficult to sit—a strange tightness would build up at the back of my legs after awhile and I’d have to get up and start moving again only to sit down when that became too much for my heels. And all through this it would hurt my knees to bend. Low cupboards became a problem. Stairs were my arch-enemy. Picking things from the floor required careful consideration. I took to wearing knee braces which at first seemed to help provide support and then felt unbearable.

Using the torturous night splint sock on my trip to Dublin in April/May 2014

So sitting and standing for any time were both bad, what was left, lying down? I tried that for a good while too but the less I moved the stranger and more persistent my leg pains and weird sensations became—particularly in a space at the back of my legs about a foot long—until my GP suggested swimming pool exercises which helped reduce the weirdness but not eliminate it. What's also helped a bit are the Z-Coil shoes I picked up in June. They reduce the impact on your heels and joints by 60% more than regular shoes.  

Despite these measures, the strange sensations at the back of my legs is constant now, just not as severe. And I’m STILL like a Jack in the Box who has to keep popping up. I can stand and sit for longer than before, but not anywhere near a normal duration. I need to move. Then stop. Then move again. Never for too long or too far mind you. Not nearly long enough to do a full time seated office job and, well, if I manage to amble around a shopping mall for an hour and a half (with seated rest periods to break up the time) I’m doing well and feel extremely pleased with myself. I often used to walk for hours at a time without thinking anything of it and miss it terribly. Now all but the shortest strolls are a thing of the past, as are concerts that require standing or things like art gallery or museum visits. Even movie watching at the local theatre can be a challenge and requires that I have enough room around me to allow me to fully extend my legs at regular intervals. This is life in the sloooow lane!

I joined a wonderfully supportive plantar fasciitis sufferers group on Facebook and traded horror stories and treatment regimens with other folks who couldn’t seem to shake their plantar fasciitis. The group helped my morale quite a bit (misery loves company), but why the hell were so many of us still suffering after following medical advice to a T and after undergoing not just one but multiple PF procedures?

And what about my blood work and the various medical studies? Well, time after time my blood work came back as perfectly fine. No sign of vitamin deficiencies or any other underlying conditions. My vascular study results were normal but my nerve conduction study results were not. The January 2015 nerve conduction study showed I have polyneuropathy that the neurologist said an older person might have without a cause but at my age there would be a reason for. However, at the time of my study he didn’t believe that my polyneuropathy was responsible for my foot and knee pain. Since then I’ve had a knee MRI which showed nothing more than very minor degeneration of the menisci, but nothing out of line for a woman my age and certainly nothing, I’m told, that should be causing the degree and wide area of pain and unusual sensations at the back of my legs. Since then I’ve also seen a rheumatologist who sent me for a feet ultrasound theorizing that I don’t have plantar fasciitis at all and that my neuropathy (which so far after, masses of blood work, is of unknown cause) is causing the vast majority of my issues.

one of my knee X-rays

And guess what? That feet ultrasound I had on September 10th, it was normal. I don’t have plantar fasciitis—the condition I had shockwave therapy, physio, and orthotics for and have now spent so much time, energy and money trying to cure. I mean, hell, no wonder none of the treatments worked, they were for a problem that I don’t have! And neither do I have much wrong with my knees. The rheumatologist said sometimes they can give kneecaps a cortisone shot but in a case as minor as mine they wouldn’t normally even do that, which makes sense because most of the pain and strangeness I feel is at the back (and well above and below) of the knee, not in the kneecap itself.

The rheumatologist wants me to see a neurologist, which will be the next step, but my GP warns the wait could be six months. They’re thin on the ground, unfortunately. And I can’t help but feel angry and short-changed by that sports doctor who pushed a cortisone shot that I didn’t need and who didn’t bother to send me for an ultrasound even though she said she’d never seen a case of plantar fasciitis that had lasted longer than a year, and I was at a year and a half and counting when I walked into her office in April, 2014.

For the moment I don’t know what’s really wrong with me, what’s given rise to the polyneuropathy that’s apparently caused—and continues to cause—me so much trouble, but it isn’t plantar fasciitis. If you, too, have been suffering for a long time and keep getting the term ‘plantar fasciitis’ hurled at you, go get that ultrasound. Print out the two articles I linked to at the start of this post and hand them to your doctor if that’s what it takes to convince them you need one. Because it just might be that plantar fasciitis isn’t what you’re suffering from either, and that no amount of rolling your foot on a frozen water bottle or stretching your calves will make one teensy bit of difference. 
In Stephen Harper's mind the refugee crisis is just another episode of his reality show, The Grinch who Stole Canada.

The program's cancellation is long overdue and I know many Canadians wish that the show had gotten the axe years ago!

For those of you who, like me, are planning to vote strategically (ABC!) in October's Canadian election. ThreeHundredEight.com's Canadian federal election riding projections are a fantastic tool.  You can easily check out which party has the best chance of defeating the Tory's in your area.

Yesterday Paddy and I were driving along Hurontario (near Steeles Avenue) through Brampton and noticed a cavalcade of cars sporting red flags and stickers. They seemed to be protesting something and I was straining to read the text on the flags when we cruised by a car with a large sticker plastered across one of the back doors. “SAY NO TO IRRESPONSIBLE SEX ED,” it commanded, not understanding the irony it was presenting. You see, irresponsible sex ed is what we had in Ontario for years. Until this coming fall, in fact, this province had the oldest sex ed curriculum in Canada, one from way back in 1998. We were originally supposed to get a new curriculum in 2010, but the Ontario government got spooked by a backlash from religious groups and a small minority of parents.
Meanwhile, according to Safe Families stats, the average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 with the 12 - 17 year old group being the largest consumer of Internet porn. And meanwhile a survey of Ontario high schools revealed “29% of Ontario Grade 9 girls ... felt unsafe at school partly due to sexual comments and unwanted looks or touches; 27% of the girls in Grade 11 admitted to being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do; 14% of the females reported being harassed over the Internet.” And meanwhile more than 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday. And meanwhile a New York City study revealed only 23% of straight women use condoms during anal sex as opposed to 61% of gay men, and women 18 to 24 years old are nearly six times more likely than those aged 45 to 64 to report unprotected anal sex.

And meanwhile seventeen-year-old Nova Scotia girl Rehtaeh Parsons committed suicide because of sexual bullying aimed at her after she was the victim of sexual assault. So did 15 year old Audrie Potts of California and fifteen year old Amanda Todd from B.C. And meanwhile eighteen year old Tyler Clementi threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after being bullied because of his sexual orientation. And meanwhile we let the world break fifteen-year-old Jamie Hubley’s heart as he was relentlessly tormented by his peers to the degree that not living another day seemed like a better option. We let that happen because this is the world—the society—that we have constructed, a society some people would like to look away from and pretend doesn’t exist. But young people don’t have that choice. They’re right smack in the middle of it.

And meanwhile two awesome thirteen year old activists, Lia Valente and Tessa Hill, started a petition requesting that the issue of consent be covered in the new Ontario sex ed, a petition which garnered more than 40,000 signatures.

“We hear stories from our friends about cat-calling and slut shaming in the hallways and in the classroom,” the girls wrote in their online petition. “We also notice the lack of awareness about safe sex and consent. … Our society is scared to teach teens and young people about safe sex, and most important, consent.”

Yes, parts of society are scared. I’m scared too. I don’t want young people to be sexually bullied or harassed or have unsafe sex. I want them to know how to keep themselves safe and understand the importance of consent. I want them to respect their peers no matter what their peers’ gender, sexual orientation or experiences are. I want rape victims not to be re-victimized by people who should know better than to blame them for a crime committed against them but apparently don’t because the society we’re raising young people in is full of shame and double standards and early exposure to hardcore pornography which up until this point has not been balanced by good, comprehensive sex ed.

Yes, we used to have irresponsible sex ed in Ontario, but that’s over with, and we should all be very glad of it. The true irresponsibility resides in the fact that it took too long to make the change, an irresponsibility which still hangs on the shoulders of the folks flying those red flags from their cars, embracing ignorance like it’s a shield when it won’t protect their child or anyone else's from a thing. Only knowledge will do that.

"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time."
—Rabindranath Tagore.
Have you ever wondered how Conservative Party of Canada politicians and their supporters (perhaps to your horror this even includes some of your unfortunate loved ones and friends!) have continued to defy any sense of logic and reason in maintaining their blind devotion to a party led by a man with the worst economic record of any Canadian Prime Minister since the end of the Second World War and who has dragged Canada back into recession; been a poison pill to national democracy by proroguing parliament on multiple occasions, constantly muzzled scientists with grave climate and environmental concerns, flagrantly ignored Aboriginal rights issues; attacked unions and helped erode checks and balances in the workplace; a party that nixed the long form census – a valuable statistical tool used to guide government resources in battling poverty and reducing the marginalization of disadvantaged groups; a party which crippled the status of women’s budget in a country where 50% of women will be sexually or physically assaulted in their lifetime and where the gender pay gap is double the  global average; a party headed by a guy who appointed eight senators who have been caught using  taxpayer dollars for inappropriate expenses—the same guy, in fact, who showed a chilling disdain for this country when he proclaimed, in 1997, that:  "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it."

How is it that any Canadian would still consider placing a vote for a Tory government, let alone look themselves in the face in the mirror if they’re actually a member of the party, you no doubt wonder? Don’t they care that the Conservatives are prepared to plunder our environment ad infinitum, stealing our descendants’ future? Don’t these people have kids, or grandchildren, you might ask, scratching your head? Don’t they care about the economy and want Canadians of all stripes to have good jobs?  Don’t they want to stand up for our human rights, or are they all really just obsessed with Justin Trudeau’s haircut?

Well, recent evidence has come to light that finally explains this puzzling, irrational support for the Conservative Party. Yep, information has surfaced which suggested that for several years now the Tory party has operated a string of pharmaceutical manufacturing plants which have produced a drug known to key members of the Tory party as Conservazolam. Inspired by the Soma of Brave New World, Conservazolam dulls higher reasoning function, preventing independent and critical thought in its users and instills a euphoric sense of well-being and affection for the Conservative party. In fact, your friends or loved ones may even have been dosed with Conservazolam without realizing it as the drug is tasteless and dissolves quickly in water. In addition to the effects mentioned above, other common side effects include brain fog, dry mouth and constipation.

Conservazolam, the Tory equivalent of Soma 
If you or a loved one feels an unreasoning attachment to the Tory party I strongly advise you to secure an independent water supply at once. As soon as Conservazolam has been out of your system for 5 to 7 days side effects will abate and higher reasoning function return, leaving you free to vote in the coming federal election with all faculties intact. Some high profile Conservative party members who stopped taking their daily dose of Conservazolam in recent months are Peter MacKay, John Baird, Shelly Glover and Christian Paradis. They got off Conservazolam and embraced reason, and so can you! As Jack Layton liked to say, "Don't let them tell you it can't be done."   
Recently I had the chance to read Carol Riggs's cool new YA sci-fi book, The Body Institute, due out September 1st. I'm a big fan of sci-fi whether we're talking about the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, John Wyndham novels, episodes of Doctor Who or Falling Skies, or flicks like Looper or Her, so I had a ton of fun diving into the near future society Carol has envisioned in The Body Institute. Here instead of encountering body snatchers we have reducers, people others willingly allow to temporarily take over their bodies and lose weight for them. Move over, diet pills and Weight Watchers International! But, as you can imagine, all may not be well with this method of losing weight...

Here's the jacket copy from the book's publisher, Entangled: 

Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.

Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches… 

For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start… 

Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

Are we our minds...or our bodies?   
The Body Institute cover

And here's the blurb I've written for the book:

"The Body Institute is a roller coaster of a book! This fast-paced sci-fi thriller grapples with issues of identity and scientific technology run amok in a society only two steps ahead of our own, while scrutinizing an all-encompassing obsession with being thin which is very much part of the here and now. Readers will love the twists and turns and be prompted to question their own relationship to technology, body image and the ever-growing power of mega-corporations."

You can learn more about author Carol Riggs at her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook

Yesterday I was at Niagara-on-the-Lake for the first time in about a year. If the dictionary sported photos along with definitions under ‘picturesque’ you’d find an image of this quaint theatre town of 15,000 people which is home to the Shaw Festival. Because my plantar fasciitis isn’t much better after over a year of sheer plantar HELL (yep, I have a doozy of a case that physio, expensive custom made orthotics and shockwave therapy haven’t helped, and some nice heel spurs – ouch – now show up on X-rays) I can only walk at a purposeful pace for about fifteen minutes before intense heel pain stops me in my tracks or up to an hour if I can amble at a shopping mall/supermarket pace. As a result I spent *a lot* of time on the benches that line Queen Street yesterday. A lot, a lot! Thankfully there are many benches, with some interesting and heartfelt remembrance plaques to go with them.

While in town one of the highlights is always the Christmas shop, which features gorgeous and kitschy (like this NHL themed tree) decorations alike.

I made sure to say hello to my old polar bear friend (photo of my previous visit with him here). He's such a fine dresser that he makes me feel schleppy.

And, of course, one of life's biggest pleasures is exploring great independent bookstores! So if you're in the area don't miss the charming Old Niagara Bookshop on Regent Street. You'll want to pick up something from their wonderfully unique collection.

One of the books we snapped up was this adorably tiny version of  Sherlock Holmes: The Essential Mysteries in One Sitting.

In Niagara-on-the-Lake even your dog gets the Downton Abbey treatment! Look at this water bowl, on an ornate platter and complete with a flower for decoration, left out in front of a local shop for your pooch to drink from.

Paddy is a huge fan of  the flavoured coffees at Victoria's Teas & Coffees which makes stopping in there a must also. For non-coffee or tea people, like me, they have a great gelato collection too. 

Lastly, rarely do we visit Niagara-on-the-Lake without dining at The Olde Angel Inn, Established in 1789, it's the oldest operating inn in Ontario. That considered, its reputation for being haunted is hardly surprising. They also serve exceptionally tasty pub food. Below you can see the Ploughman’s Lunch Paddy ordered: a selection of cheeses, fresh vegetables, fruit, pickled onions, hardboiled egg, Piccalilli, Branston Pickle and served with fresh bread and crackers.

I've been seated by this picture of King John signing the Magna Carta several times and always have a hard time taking my eyes off it. 

One of the wait staff noticed me snapping pictures of it and kindly moved a coat rack out of the way so I could capture an unobscured view. Then she shared the first of several ghostly stories about the inn. She's been working there for over ten years and on this past June 12th, the eight hundred year anniversary of King John's signing of the Magna Carta, the above painting, which has been hanging on this wall for over fifty-five years without incident, suddenly flew off the wall and hit her forcefully in the back.

A close-up of King John looking peeved

When I reacted to her account with equal parts delight and anxiety, she showed me a recent letter from a female inn guest who had written to her describing her own ghostly encounter while staying in the General's Quarters, in the bedroom closest to the sitting room. There she was awoken in the middle of the night by the smell of cold ashes and a dark, shapeless presence who began pulling at the bed covers and pillow. Her sister, in a separate room, also had strange experiences and the second night, freaked out by the strange energy of the place, the two ended up cowering in a room together until dawn arrived. The guest concludes her correspondence by vouching for the presence of active spirits in the inn but stating she had a thoroughly enjoyable stay nevertheless. 

So slow were Paddy and I to finish our lunch that I was able to coax a third story out of the same employee, this one involving the table next to us. Some time ago a woman and her young son were having a meal there. The pub's bathroom is located downstairs and at one point the woman took her son down. Once they were back seated in the restaurant he asked her matter-of-factly who the man with no feet at the top of the stairs had been (although there'd be no one there!). But apparently the woman didn't think much of it at the time, or until some point later when she was at home looking through photo album pictures with her son. He pointed out at photo of his great grandfather (a man he had supposedly never met) and said that was the man he'd seen at the top of the stairs that day. Eventually the customer shared this story with the employee I was speaking with, who didn't have any further details about who the great grandfather was and whether he'd ever lived in the Niagara area. Personally, I wonder if the boy may have thought he was the same man because of old fashioned clothes and style the apparition could have been sporting, but either way it makes a very cool story and I really appreciate her taking the time to share these incidences with me.

If you want to read more about paranormal activity at the inn you can start at this Niagara website, and the inn's own site. There are also a couple of accounts on a Toronto Ghosts page and whether you're into ghost-hunting or just want to grab some good food, The Olde Angel Inn is a great place to spend some time while in Niagara-on-the-Lake. But lest you think it's all about the nosh and the goosebumps, the Olde Angel Inn also has a romantic heart. The wooden walls of the women's bathroom stalls are entirely covered in declarations of love. Most of them etched roughly into the wood and others inked on with marker.

And don't forget to read some of  the dedications on the town benches--they tell mini stories of their own!
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