You’ll Never Walk Alone

photo taken by Tom Barrett, Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital, Milwaukee Wisconsin

Barbra Streisand performed this song unannounced at the closing of the 2001 Emmy Awards just two months after the 9/11 attacks.

She now has recorded it 20 years later for the crisis the world is going through. I feel many people can relate to the lyrics.


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illustration by CDC - reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
CDC – ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.

Coronavirus – Covid-19

I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to post about the pandemic. Turn on the radio or the tv and you get updates about Covid-19. It’s the first thing you see on social media. Driving down the street there is a huge sign about a vaccine clinic. I get emails daily about it. I didn’t think I had anything to add to that. I thought reading about something other than the pandemic that people must deal with would be more beneficial.

However, finding this of interest, I’m posting some information about the Coronavirus variants.

This is taken straight from the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION’s (WHO) website:

 Latest versions: Our World In Data

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the virus’ properties. However, some changes may affect the virus’s properties, such as how easily it spreads, the associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures.

WHO, in collaboration with partners, expert networks, national authorities, institutions and researchers have been monitoring and assessing the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since January 2020. During late 2020, the emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health prompted the characterization of specific Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs), in order to prioritize global monitoring and research, and ultimately to inform the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Variants of Concern (VOC)

Working definition:

A SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI (see below) and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; OR
  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; OR
  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines,
  • therapeutics.  

Currently designated Variants of Concern:

WHO label Pango  
GISAID cladeNextstrain  
Additional amino acid changes monitored*Earliest documented  
Date of designation 
Alpha B.1.1.7 GRY20I (V1) +S:484K
United Kingdom,  
Beta B.1.351 
GH/501Y.V2 20H (V2)+S:L18FSouth Africa,  
Gamma P.1 
GR/501Y.V3 20J (V3)+S:681HBrazil,  
Delta B.1.617.2
G/478K.V1 21A+S:417NIndia,  

Variants of Interest (VOI)

Working definition:

A SARS-CoV-2 variant : with genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape; AND 

Identified to cause significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.”  

Currently designated Variants of Interest:

WHO label Pango  
GISAID cladeNextstrain  
Earliest documented  
Date of designation 
Eta B.1.525 G/484K.V3 21DMultiple countries, 
Iota B.1.526  GH/253G.V121F United States of America,  
Kappa B.1.617.1  G/452R.V3 21B  India,  
LambdaC.37GR/452Q.V121GPeru, Dec-2020

Alerts for Further Monitoring

Working definition 

A SARS-CoV-2 variant with genetic changes that are suspected to affect virus characteristics with some indication that it may pose a future risk, but evidence of phenotypic or epidemiological impact is currently unclear, requiring enhanced monitoring and repeat assessment pending new evidence.  

Note: It is expected that our understanding of the impacts of these variants may fast evolve, and designated Alerts for Further Monitoring may be readily added/removed; therefore, WHO labels will not be assigned at this time. Former VOIs/VOCs may, however, be monitored for an extended period under this category, and will maintain their assigned WHO label until further notice.” 

Currently designated Alerts for Further Monitoring:

GISAID cladeNextstrain  
Earliest documented  
Date of designation 
GH/452R.V1  21CUnited States of America, 
VOI: 5-Mar-2021 
Alert: 6-Jul-2021
R.1GRMultiple countries,Jan-2021 07-Apr-2021
B.1.466.2 GHIndonesia,
GH  21H Colombia,
B.1.1.318GRMultiple countries,
B.1.1.519GR20B/S.732AMultiple countries,
C.36.3C.36.3.1GRMultiple countries,
B.1.214.2GMultiple countries, Nov-202030-Jun-2021
B.1.1.523GRMultiple countries, May-202014-July-2021
G20A/S.126AMultiple countries, May-202014-July-2021
B.1.620GMultiple countries, November 202014-July-2021

For further information on Covid-19 and the actions taken by WHO and Member States for potential Variants of Concern(VOC) and Variants of Interest(VOI) as well as reclassifying VOIs/VOCs please go to the WHO site.

At this moment, in Canada all government sectors, hospitals, health care, any crown corporations and transportation (including transport and leisure) will have to be fully vaccinated. For education, depending on the province, Ontario colleges and universities you must be vaccinated to be on campus. Other provinces like Saskatchewan have started to follow suite.

Before the Covid pandemic if you wanted to travel to certain countries you had to provide proof of vaccine for certain infectious diseases such as yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis and polio. Ebola vaccines and malaria vaccines are in development. We are just adding another to the list.   

 I am fully vaccinated, so is my family, but my 2-year-old grandson unfortunately cannot be yet.  That is OUR choice.  If you choose NOT to be vaccinated that is YOUR choice but you also must live with any and all consequences as we do. Unfortunately, the people who are unvaccinated have fueled the 4th wave of the pandemic. The majority of the vaccinated this time who have contracted covid are older, have health problems or/and are immuno-compromised.  It was NOT their choice.

The number of infections are on the rise again. Wear a mask, wash your hands often and maintain social distance when out in public. Please stay safe. We will get through this.

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Photo by jasmin chew on

I found this on a website called Free Will Astrology written by Rob Bresny.  I thought what a great way to release stress with a meditation visualizing soaring up in the sky feeling free.  So for that I thank you Rob.

Now if you can take the tip of a tape measure with one hand then put that arm outstretched then take the tape measure with the other hand holding it at the base and outstretch that arm. Now with the same hand hold on to the tape measure so it doesn’t close and see the length from the tip of one middle finger to the other. If this is too hard for you get someone to help  measure the distance from the tip of one middle finger to the other. Do you have a wingspan similar to that of a hawk? Eagle? Osprey? The mythical thunderbird? Pterodactyl?

Now lie on your back with your arms outstretched. Close your eyes and visualize yourself hovering and swooping above the treetops. Feel the wind on your skin, blowing your hair, how fast or slow you can go. How free you feel. You can go anywhere you want. You are free as a bird. 

What do you see below you? People, trees, lakes, mountains; it’s your flight you can go where ever you want for how long you want to go. 

When you are ready to come down make sure you fly back from wherever you go. Then just like a bird land in a familiar place. Then once landed you can slowly open your eyes and bring your arms back down to your sides.

Sit up and take a few cleansing breaths before standing and make sure your arms are ok. They had a real workout. If you were gone flying for more than 10 minutes sit and drink a glass of water before standing.

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This is one reason of many for poor sleep and the feeling of exhaustion that people with Fibromyalgia(FM) have. Approximately 40% of people with FM also have Restless Leg Syndrome(RLS).

People describe these unpleasant sensations as burning, creeping, tugging, or like insects crawling inside the legs.

  RLS is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move when at rest. People describe these unpleasant sensations as burning, creeping, tugging, or like insects crawling inside the legs.  The sensations may range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.

To relieve the discomfort of RLS you must keep the legs in motion.  This causes constant tossing and turning in bed and often having to get up and walk to relieve the sensations. This leaves you exhausted by morning.

I suffered from RLS and I can tell you it wasn’t fun.  I was on a medication that controlled it.  However, like all medications there are side effects which you have to consider.  Always, I repeat, ALWAYS do your homework.  I always research everything the doctors give me BEFORE I start taking anything.  My doctors are great and they know me now.  I make sure they know their facts.

If you have RLS or you know someone who does, the following video gives you all different remedies you can try, from medications to old wives tales.


I originally posted this back in 2011. I’ve updated the video so it has current information (and a little more interesting to watch). I’m no longer on any medications for RLS because the side effects were too severe. I was on pramipexole (Mirapex). It’s a dopamine agonist which means it increases the amount of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and “feel good hormone”. As per Psychology Today, “The brain releases it when we eat food that we crave or while we have sex, contributing to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system. This important neurochemical boosts mood, motivation, and attention, and helps regulate movement, learning, and emotional responses”. So then by increasing the presence of dopamine you increase the pleasurable feelings and addiction.

Back in 2011 I was seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed the pramipexole. He would always ask me how I was feeling and whether I started to have any gambling problems because pramipexole has warnings that it could increase addictions such as drinking, drugs, gambling or shopping, but what he never talked about was hallucinations. That, my friends, was scary.

Until next time!


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Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on on

Zazen is the classic zen meditation sometimes described as ‘sitting quietly doing nothing’. A common practice among Japanese Zen Buddhist monks and nuns.

It’s tradition to sit in the lotus or half-lotus position here, but if this is uncomfortable for you then sit in a straight back chair.

Your hands should rest in your lap, with both palms up, and the left hand resting on the right hand.

Make sure your spine is straight. Push your lower back forward slightly and expand your chest while making sure your head is upright. Gently move from side to side until you find the balance point that is most comfortable.

Keep your eyes open just a tiny bit (‘neither open nor closed’) and look at the floor a few feet in front of you. Breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your mouth closed and your tongue resting gently against the roof of your mouth.

Take a few deep breaths, exhaling all of the air in your lungs each time, and then let your breathing find it’s own natural deep rhythm, without any force.

Watch the breath. When the mind wanders, gently acknowledge it then bring it back again to that simple awareness. Be still. Relax. Be easy on yourself. Don’t judge yourself. Just keep the attention on your breathing, and when the mind wanders, and it will, just gently bring it back again.

Be here now. Just BE in the moment. Breathe, and be fully, vitally present.

When you choose to come out of the meditation, first come back to a full sense of being engaged in all of your body. Then gently move your upper body around in small arcs before stretching your legs out. Don’t stand up too soon if your legs are stiff!!



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Lighthouse in fog.

Brain fog or fibro fog is one of the lesser talked about symptoms of Fibromyalgia (FM) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Until recently the cognitive impairment that is brain fog have been ignored. Most clinicians have focused on the pain management. However, for the millions who suffer with brain fog the symptoms can be more debilitating than the pain.

woman crouched down with hand over her eyes

Brain fog can range from mild to severe. The symptoms can be different on different days and may include short-term memory loss, difficulty finding words, difficulty concentrating, difficulty retaining information, the feeling of being spaced out, slurring speech or you can wake up and be fine the next day.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FM) back in 2006.  Back then all they talked about was the pain.  Many doctor’s didn’t even believe in FM including my family doctor at the time. Fibro fog wasn’t a thing. If you mentioned any of these symptoms they would consider them as part of depression or another psychiatric disorder.

I was put on topomax from my neurologist for chronic migraines and was told by a psychiatrist that he doesn’t like that medication because “it makes people stupid” (his exact words). A side effect of topomax is word finding problems. So until recently I thought it was the topamax because I’ve been taking it almost as long as I’ve had FM.  I guess the fibro just makes it worse and I have a double whammy now with rheumatoid arthritis.

There have been many small studies, but, for a person dealing with brain fog, they didn’t have any answers just reiterating what we already know: that pain, lack of good sleep, stress, side effects of medication, and over exerting yourself can all contribute to brain fog.

Neurons and Neurotransmitters in the brain

Some scientists including Mark Swain, MD, a professor at the University of Calgary in Canada, think that inflammation is the main culprit. They have proved that chronic inflammation in the body (as a result of cytokines like tumor necrosis factor (TNF)) can change the way the brain nerve networks start talking to each other differently. This can aggravate many of the symptoms including brain fog.

Swedish researchers came to the same conclusion after following 1500 patients for 2 decades.

Andrew Schrepf Ph.D., research investigator at Michigan Medicine’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and colleagues wanted to see how the peripheral inflammation affects the structure and connectivity of the brain.

“Even though it has been assumed for a long time that the inflammation we see in blood is impacting the brain, up until this study we didn’t know precisely where and how those changes in the brain were actually happening.”

Andrew Schrepf Ph.D.
radiologist reviewing brain scans on computer

They used functional MRI and structural MRI to scan the brains of 54 participants aged 43 – 66 at the beginning of the study and 6 months later.

“In a graph theoretical analysis across the whole brain network, and correlating that with levels of inflammation, we saw a lot of convergence across methods and time points for the amount of connectivity in the inferior parietal lobule and medial prefrontal cortex,”

“They showed us that the brain doesn’t operate in isolation.”

Chelsea Kaplan, Ph.D., an anesthesiology research fellow at Michigan Medicine

“[The findings] also demonstrated how inflammation we measure in the periphery may be actually altering functional connections in the brain and playing a role in some of the cognitive symptoms we see in rheumatoid arthritis.”

Chelsea Kaplan, Ph.D.

“By relating these advanced neuroimaging measures back to the patient experience, we provide evidence that the future targeting of central inflammatory pathways may greatly enhance the quality of life of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Study co-author, author Neil Basu, Ph.D., University of Aberdeen, UK

“This intriguing data supports the idea that rheumatoid arthritis inflammation targets the brain and not just the joints.”

Neil Basu, Ph.D.

There are two online support groups one for Fibromyalgia, MyFibroTeam, and the other for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), MyRATeam. They are part of a larger group, MyHealthTeams, with a presence in eight countries with millions of members. They not only have peer support through the online network, but they have referrals to doctors and all articles written are fact checked by the appropriate parties. With a million members the most talked about subject is brain/fibro fog.


We are finally seeing some good studies and research being done. BUT There are so many support groups that talk about the struggle with brain fog. Just within MyHealthTeams alone there are hundreds of thousands of sufferers. Why do most of the research studies have less than 100 people? Why does it take 20 years to follow patients to conclude that it’s chronic inflammation in the body that provokes brain fog?

If you look up Fibromyalgia symptoms on the Mayo Clinic website they list fibro fog as a symptom. If you look up Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Mayo Clinic website no where do they list brain fog as a symptom.

The studies I’ve briefly talked about are a start but, more has to be done. Just telling your patients to get more sleep, exercise more, and stay away from stressful situations are not going to cut it.

For more information and to read further studies see the links below.

Until next time,


Fibrofog and fibromyalgia: a narrative review and implications for clinical practice – PubMed (

RA’s Effect on Your Brain (

Fibro Fog and ME/CFS Brain Fog Overview (

Rheumatoid arthritis: How chronic inflammation affects the brain (

Brain Fog and Rheumatoid Arthritis | myRAteam

Cognitive Impairment in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review – PubMed (

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