• Ask the Fitness Expert-
    How do I exercise when the cold weather makes it impossible for me to move?
  • Recipe of the Month–
    Rick's Butternut Squash Soup

I have been living with severe, widespread chronic pain for five years. Every year, my pain becomes more debilitating, which makes it harder for me to stay positive that I will find a treatment that will bring me relief. The only reason I push forward is that I have a family that love and need me.

Being that we live on the East Coast, the blistering cold adds to my misery. It seems that every bone seethes with pain as fall turns into winter. While I have always loved watching the leaves turn shades of red, orange and yellow, my body cannot tolerate the effects of the seasonal change. There are days where moving my arm an inch seems impossible, let alone trying to walk and care for my family.

I already have muscle atrophy in my arms and legs, and I deal with low-back pain. For some reason, my pain is worse in the winter. My doctors and therapists push me to move, but I hurt all the time. I’m afraid exercise will exacerbate my pain. What do you think? What can I do during these cold months? Will exercise ease my pain?

K.B. in Massachusetts

Dear K.B.,

Movement is important. When we move, blood circulates through the body. With many chronic pain conditions, circulation decreases. With less blood traveling to the limbs, we experience increased pain and other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, temperature and color changes, or difficulty moving fingers and toes.

Exercising itself does not automatically stop chronic pain; it takes time and discipline. It must become a part of a person’s daily routine. Remember small movements can lead to big results. Just sitting on a dining room table and standing up ten times in a row, three times a day can prevent the body from regressing. Placing hands on a wall or washing machine while doing modified push-ups will make a difference over time as well as it aids in stopping muscle atrophy and can ease some of the pain symptoms.

Winter is always difficult because the outside temperature affects the body’s internal temperature. It is human nature to try to protect the body from the added pain by lying still; however, the human body is designed to move. Without movement, we create secondary pain issues like neck pain, back pain or muscle atrophy. Exercise is vital to wellness and health.

Start small. Walk around the house or walk around the bedroom—just take a few extra steps each day. Try completing three sets of ten modified squats, which are accomplished by getting up-and-down out of a chair, and push-ups. If done consistently, these exercises can build your endurance and strength.

On days when you feel absolutely defeated and unable to move, do not beat yourself up. Instead, envision yourself doing the same movements and try again the following day to actively participate in those activities. There has been research proving that visualization creates neurological responses in nerves.

Remember there will be good days and bad days, so do not get discouraged with your progress. I also want to remind you that it is a good idea to speak with your doctor before beginning any new program. I wish you the best, and please keep me updated. If you have any other questions, send them to Rick at rick @nicole hemmenway.com..

—Rick Dyer, MS, CSCS, CPT, CrossFit Certified (FIT, Los Altos, CA)

Just to make you Laugh

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

As it is nearly time to return to school, I thought “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” would be the perfect comedy to watch!

My Thoughts

I cannot believe the holidays are approaching. As this is the time of year to express appreciation for the ones that matter most in your life, I want to begin by thanking each of you. Thank you for making me a better person.

During the last eleven months, my life has dramatically changed. My husband and I moved, my book was published, my health continued to bewilder me at times, and I dealt with the heartbreak of loss and the joy of new life. Yet despite certain obstacles, I recognize how far I have come on my quest for wellness.

It has been a journey … a journey that has led me to new friends and new inspirations. I am overwhelmed by your light, strength and desire to move forward in spite of pain. As I believe each of us holds the power to make this world a happier, more positive place, I thank you for adding more joy and healing energy to the planet. I am so thankful that I have met you. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to live an empowered, fulfilled life with or without pain.

Remember that you matter. Continue to hold onto hope and believe in the unimaginable. I am thinking of each of you and wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving season. Gobble, gobble!

Believing in Miracles,


With the first two exhibitions of the INvisible Project behind us, I wanted to share one INvisible participant’s story with you. Please take the time to read Vidro’s story and pass on to others! He truly is courageous. Continue to check Healing Times Newsletter and the INvisible Project website as each month a different INvisible story will be featured.

Heriberto Vidro is a father, husband and United States hero. Enlisting in the Army Reserves in 1980, Vidro, as his friends and family call him, served our country for twenty-four years.

In 2003, Vidro went to Iraq. A member of the 773rd Transportation Company, his unit was transporting fuel to the 3rd Infantry Division on the front lines when they were ambushed. As he ran to help his fellow soldiers, an explosion threw him into the air. Landing on his back caused Vidro pain and discomfort, but because he showed no outward signs of distress, his case did not seem urgent. In fact, the Army was unaware of the severity of his injuries until the end of his tour in the fall of 2003.

Once home, Vidro began visiting specialists for nerve problems and muscle spasms. He soon discovered his kidneys were affected by the fall, and he had two herniated discs in his neck and two in his lower back. Because the lower herniated discs rubbed against a nerve, Vidro’s left leg became numb and he could not walk. He also began experiencing neurological issues with his left hand. Additionally, Vidro was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Doctors prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) to control PTSD. He has tried morphine, spinal nerve blocks, and various other pain management procedures, all without success. He had hand surgery, but it did not improve his damaged nerves, so he is unable to hold anything in his left hand. Ultimately, Vidro underwent back surgery in 2008. While he cannot stand or sit for long periods, the back surgery has brought some relief. He can walk further now before his back begins to ache and knot up.

Although they weren’t appreciated at the time, Vidro had also sustained head injuries. He frequently suffers from migraines, dizzy spells and blurred vision. He has tinnitus, a condition impairing his ability to hear out of his right ear. He uses a cane to keep his balance. Sometimes he cannot differentiate between hot and cold temperatures. His injuries affected his ability to speak correctly, and have caused short-term memory loss, confusion and rapid mood changes.

Doctors’ appointments now mainly consist of prioritizing his symptoms to make the most of his life. Like the warrior he is, Vidro will not give up. He has learned his own strength in tolerating such pain. In fact, he stopped taking morphine this January because he did not like the way the medication made him feel.

Vidro manages his pain with occupational therapy three times a week and chiropractic visits. While he feels better for a few days following a chiropractic session, the best form of relief comes from constant distractions. Staying busy allows Vidro to block out some of the pain. His favorite new activities include cooking and adapted hunting, skiing and biking.

The Wounded Warriors Project, an organization providing medical and psychological support for the severely wounded, has been an instrumental part of his recovery. For Vidro, connecting with other veterans has been therapeutic. “We have a unique bond. We know and understand what one another are going through, and together we help each other heal.”

Wounded Warrior Projects that have most affected Vidro are the peer mentor program, Soldier Rides, and Challenge Aspen, also referred to as C.A.M.O. or Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities. Riding his recumbent bike, Vidro has already participated in two Soldier Rides, which are three- or four-day cycling events. He also raced in the New England Disabled Sports’ White Mountain Cycling Classic.

Challenge Aspen provides recreational and cultural experiences for wounded warriors with cognitive or physical disabilities. Collaborating with the Wounded Warrior Project, Challenge Aspen helps wounded veterans rediscover their life potential. While in Colorado, Vidro tested the limits of his body through fishing, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. He felt normal and liked the camaraderie. Being able to joke and laugh with fellow soldiers while learning to support one another was important to him.

A recent and happy addition to Vidro’s life has been Houdini, his service dog from NEADS (Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans). Family, friends and doctors all believe Houdini has helped Vidro reduce his medications from forty pills a day to eleven, and has made him softer, calmer and more engaged in life.

Vidro takes pride in brushing, feeding and walking Houdini. Houdini senses Vidro’s pain. He keeps Vidro stable when standing and helps him around the house by opening doors, answering the phone and picking up fallen objects. To Vidro, his wife and three children, Houdini is part of the family. “He is not a dog; he is my baby, my buddy.”

While amazed by the kindness and graciousness of his community, Vidro often regrets returning from war as a “burden” to his beloved family. He moves forward by appreciating the little things in life, like watching a Mets game and enjoying photography, fishing and music. His new mission is to help others and be with his family.

“I want returning soldiers to know there is still life after a catastrophic injury. My dream is to ride cross-country from New York to California to bring awareness about Veterans’ issues. If I can use my life as an example, then I would know I have made a difference.”

To learn more about the organizations who have made a difference in Vidro's life, please visit:

Wounded Warrior Project

Challenge Aspen

NEADS (Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans)

RSD Awareness Quilt Project

Spearheaded by Florida resident Troy Walker, the RSD Awareness Quilt Project is a campaign designed to create awareness and change to the RSD community. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a neurological and chronic pain condition, which the medical community also refers to as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

For the past two months, hundreds of people living with this debilitating condition have joined forces to make visible the challenges associated with living with RSD by sending in a 12x12 square displaying personal RSD journeys. The RSD Awareness Quilt Project is a way for us to express our frustration, solitude, hope, resilience, struggle and triumph.

With November being National RSD Awareness Month, the RSD Awareness Quilt Project is committed to starting a new dialogue about this incurable disease that affects 1.2 to 7 million Americans. For more information regarding RSD Awareness Quilt Project, please visit their Facebook page.

Heartfelt Gratitude and Thanks

INvisible Project

Even though the first two INvisible Project exhibitions are over, I am still struggling to put into words what this experience means to me. Meeting such inspiring individuals has had a profound affect on my life. I am currently working on my INvisible Project blog, which I will include in December’s e-Newsletter. Thank you to everyone involved in this advocacy effort campaign.

To our sponsors –PriCara, Purdue, PainPathways Magazine and RSDA— and the organizations and groups who came to show support and share much-needed information about resources available to help those with pain, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It truly is by coming together that our voices become louder, and we can accomplish anything.

I also want to recognize our ten brave participants: Karin Boyce, Stephen Brilliant, Denise Coleman, Wendy Foster, Bianca Henriquez, Edania Maldonado, Kelly Rouba, Ellen Smith, Marsha Tyszler and Heriberto Vidro. I truly admire your honesty, candidness and willingness to help others. Thank you for being such incredible people…you are my heroes.

Heroes of Healing

I want to thank our incredible members and friends for posting new discussions and blogs. Continue to look for more updates from me (and others) this month!– www.heroesofhealing.com

Nicoles Recipe of the Month

Rick's Butternut Squash Soup

This is one of my favorite fall soups, and so simple to make! Before my husband made this, I really did not think I was a fan of butternut squash…but this is delicious. Enjoy and bon appétit!


  • 1 Butternut squash – peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 yellow onion – chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or Vegetable broth
  • Nutmeg – just a pinch
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot, add oil, onion and garlic. Cook until translucent or about five minutes. Add squash and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and puree in blender or use an emulsion blender in the pot. If using a blender, return pureed squash to pot and stir. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.


facts on pain
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
-2006 National Institute of Health Statistic

Chronic pain is often defined as pain that lasts six months or longer.

More than 50 million Americans experience chronic pain that interferes with daily activities, according to the American Pain Foundation.

The American Pain Foundation describes pain as the fifth vital sign after blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine states that the annual cost of chronic pain in the United States, including healthcare.

Helpful Links to Pain Resources


Four Candles
–Author Unknown

The Four Candles burned slowly.
Their Ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak...

The first candle said, "I Am Peace, but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit."
Then Peace's flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.

The second candle says, "I Am Faith, but these days, I am no longer indispensable."
Then Faith's flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.

Sadly the third candle spoke, "I Am Love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer."
"People put me aside and don't understand my importance. They even forget to love those who are nearest to them." And waiting no longer, Love goes out completely.

Suddenly...A child enters the room and sees the three candles no longer burning.
The child begins to cry, "Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit until the end."

Then the Fourth Candle spoke gently to the little boy,
"Don't be afraid, for I Am Hope, and while I still burn, we can re-light the other candles."
With Shining eyes the child took the Candle of Hope and lit the other three candles.