For those of you that know me or have been longtime followers of this blog, you know that I tend to follow a pretty CAM/Holistic approach to managing my health - and yes, Lucky Charms are made of Whole Grains so my sister can stop laughing right now!!! To clarify what some people may view as a somewhat shaky stance on health issues in general, I view my philosophy on nutrition (which is whole hearted but half assed) as quite separate from my desire to stay as med-free as possible at all times. I have been off prescription medications more than on them since 2007 and as a general rule, try to avoid small orange bottles by whatever other first line of defense means necessary including diet changes, rest, heat/massage, meditation etc. However, a few times a year when I travel to visit my children and family on the east coast, I allow myself a pulse dose of steroids to be able to manage things.
I am 40 a year old mother of two and I have had Systemic Lupus since my teen years. I also have an overlap of Rheumatoid Arthritis which caused severe deformities resulting in having the joints replaced in my hand at 35 years old which is virtually unheard of. My hips were next on the list to go bionic, but the hand surgery was so excruciating I declined it. My surgeon was very butthurt that he had to downgrade his new yacht. Since then I have broken my kneecaps off twice because the steroids destroyed what little muscle tone I had, very curious given my very strenuous daily workouts of just getting to the toilet on my own. Fabulous arm tone too as you might have guessed which did not hold up quite as well as I would have liked when I fell in my own kitchen and broke my shoulder in three places and cracked my humerus bone which was not really all that funny.
I was given last rights a little over two years ago because I was being treated with a type of chemotherapy that was potentially fatal. Having been hospitalized four times in a twelve month period, I was also considering a stem cell transplant because my lupus was refractive and totally out of control. I have tried literally every drug on and off label in every permutation and combination possible. In addition to traditional/western medicine, I have been macrobiotic, vegan, done cleanses, magnets, biofeedback, naturopathy, chiropractic, chinese herbs, acupuncture, alternative treatments, and mind/body medicine of all kinds. I have read so many books, blogs and articles on the subjects at hand, I could probably write one. In living with SLE and RA, I deal with chronic pain, severe joint deformities, migraine headaches, syncopal episodes, discoid lesions, elements of Raynaud's Phenomenon and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, pleurisy, asthma, insomnia, anxiety, and the many side effects of my treatments such as massive scarring from high dose steroid treatment, just to name but a few.
I got fed up with the system and being sick all the time and so I fired my medical team and hired myself, figuring there wasn't much I could do to screw things up any worse than they had already done. Since 2007, I got off 13 daily meds, changed my entire lifestyle, moved from NYC to rural Utah and started over. I am still off daily prescription medication but I question this on a daily basis, especially when the pain gets out of control. It can be very scary at times not knowing when your health is going to tank again but I try to stay positive. I would never recommend that anyone do as I did and jump ship on their meds or their doctors but I know that there are people out there trying to live with this disease and they can feel very frustrated, alone, and scared. I feel these things too as I chart my own course with no maps, no guides. I feel comforted by the posts of others, I learn from them, I share their trials and triumphs. If you are still here with me, you must know some of the same struggles. I share my journey here, living with SLE, RA, and how I manage to live a ridiculously fabulous life in spite of the wolf at my door.
The photo with the top hat was taken in April, 2008. The profile photo and original content is from is from January, 2009.
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This entry will review a new addition to my luggage - The JetCart Lightweight Laptop Carry On by Walkin' Bag . The Ultra Lite version weighing at only 4.8 pounds actually weighs less than my favorite handbag and is designed in such a way that it provides a sort of gliding handrail to help guide you along your way instead of using a cane. The ingenious design of their unique curved handle can support up to 250lbs. I was truly impressed with the smooth stability the handle provided - in fact, this is the first set of back to back flights in several years that I have not needed to use wheelchair assistance at JFK or McCarran. Traveling with a service dog held with one hand, and one to two bags to manage as well, I am often too unsteady with average wheeled luggage to be able to navigate the entire airport on my own. The return of a sense of independence was something I can only imagine I share with the Walkin' Bag creator and CEO Etsuo Miyoshi. To read full story behind the Walkin' Bag, please visit their website - http://www.walkinbag.com
Measuring 22" x 12" x 8", the dimensions and maneuverability of the JetCart glide with ease down the center aisle of the aircraft. Also, the JetCart fits in the overhead bins as most carry-ons do, but this bag quickly and easily detaches from the frame which then has the added benefit that it can fit under the seat of every major carrier I have flown. Once on the plane, this eliminates the need to lift a heavy bag over my head which can be uncomfortable on a good day or impossible on a really bad one. I also keep my computer, medications and service dog supplies easily at hand under the seat, eliminating the need to constantly move, stand, or ask for assistance during the flight.
By using a medium sized zippered vacuum-sealable bag (SpaceBag) inside the JetCart, I was able to carefully pick and pack clothing, shoes and accessories for an 11 day stay away from home. The fully packed bag weighed in at just over 26 pounds; when tested in and outside my home on tile, carpet and sidewalks, The JetCart handled room to room seams and transitions with ease. The handle height and design (which really does feel like a handrail that moves with you) meant I did not need use or bring a cane which was one less thing to pack, bring with, or worry about. The telescoping handle also adjusts at six height levels from 27" to 37" which accommodated my nearly six foot frame quite comfortably.
In testing "on the road" the bag fit easily on any seat in my car eliminating the need to open or lift in/out of the trunk. At the first stop along the way, the JetCart managed well over sandy areas at the shuttle parking lot and the four wheels that swivel 360 degrees virtually ignored bits of small loose gravel in our way. Upon our arrival at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, the wheels moved easily over sidewalk grid marks, grooves, and slights changes in sidewalk height like those which lead from wheelchair access ramps to standard curb height.
I found that I needed to slow down and give a slight almost quarter turn going over the very deep sidewalk grooves like those we faced on arrival at JFK airport, but I had tried several other bags with either two or four wheels which could not compete with how easily the Walkin' Bag's design can make these transitions in a far more stable manner. The Walkin' Bag website contains instructions for positioning of your hand in guiding the curved handrail/handle; they explain and illustrate the best grip to use to obtain maximum stability and continuous smooth flow when making such transitions.
This particular bag is quite versatile - a soft sided carry-on designed to be a sort of rolling "office" with several pockets for a laptop, cell phone, file folders, change of clothing+shoes, etc, all of these same pockets were equally useful in holding the vacuum sealed bag with the bulk of my clothes in the largest pocket, sectioning off smaller items as needed in the remaining pockets. As a rule, I tend to wear the heaviest items of clothing when I travel to avoid having to pack them; blue jeans, blouse and/or lightweight sweater, windbreaker or vest with several pockets, and sneakers. I also usually have access to a laundry facility at least once during a trip. After careful editing, the items packed inside the bag included:
1 pair women's dress shoes
2 tee shirts
2 lightweight tunics
1 pair pants
3 pair underwear
2 pair socks
1 jewelry wrap containing hair accessories and women's jewelry collection (8x2x2)
1 small first aid/emergency repair kit
1 small toiletry bag
1 curling iron
1 pocket digital camera outfit including USB cord and charger
1 evening bag black containing prescription medication
1 13" laptop computer
left side pocket: 1 pair loafers/shoes
right side pocket: lunch+snack kit in a "can" (see below)
back pocket: service dog supplies and essential paperwork for easy access
I purposely packed the JetCart to its limits to compare how the ultra-lightweight construction behaved in comparison with traditional four wheeled luggage. With the exact same items packed in a traditional type of four wheeled luggage of almost identical size, the competitor's bag would begin to lean when pushed on household carpet and would actually tip over at transition points like the bullnose of a doorway threshold. The JetCart could maneuver over average height household carpet at a slow walking pace without excessive effort or strain, and with speed and ease over the office type/low pile carpet found at both airports.
I will say that correct positioning of your hand on the handle is absolutely key in getting the best out of the design, but it is very easy to remember how/where to hold the handle because it feels natural in relation to the design of the bag that worked with my body. I should point out here that in testing this design I have specific challenges of artificial joint replacements in my left hand, weak/unstable wrists on both left and right, and severe deformities from ulnar deviation caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis in my other "good"/right hand.
More useful features: the top and/or front entry dual zippers made it easy to remove my laptop for security screening, and the fully open front made unpacking very easy. The side pockets were very handy for essentials I'd need before takeoff; I keep a pair of lightweight slip-on loafers at hand to use once I'm on the plane and these stored easily in the first side pocket. The second pocket I used to hold my lunch and snacks; I made a 6 inch sandwich on "sub" shaped bread, and then emptied half a can of Pringles brand potato crisps into a separate baggie. With half the crisps still in the can, I use the empty half to slide in the wrapped sandwich and top it off with two folded napkins or paper towels. My lunch+snack pack was not only handy and fit in the side pocket perfectly, but I got to discard one more item before even leaving the plane. Plus, after all that packing, it was late, I was hungry, I think it was only fair that I now got to eat the homeless extra Pringles in the baggie that wouldn't get to make it to the airport.
Appearance wise, it features a sleek, stylish design and comes in three colors - black, red, and brown, all with tan trim in a really attractive satin type nylon fabric. My only concern for this bag is that since this is designed as a carry-on, I would not trust this particular lightweight fabric or finish to luggage handlers; even though the fabric and construction seems like it is quite thick and sturdy enough to withstand a good amount of abuse structurally speaking, I would not want to see the fabric marred by a greasy, dirty conveyor belt.
The JetCart uses an quick release velcro-type tab system to attach its' bag to the frame; the bag is small enough to carry lighter loads without the frame, using the handles as a tote bag. I discovered another useful aspect of this design is that the wheeled frame could be used in the same manner as a luggage cart with other smaller items like a mini travel cooler if you have a strap or bungee cord available to secure it to the frame. I also found that smaller sized light weight travel bags that have a horizontal set of slits which can slide over the handle can be used to stack "piggy back style" over the JetCart handle which means I use one hand for my service dog and one hand to control ALL of my luggage!
The Walkin' Bag makes several other styles including a Ballistic Nylon a version with a seat, a ladie's tote style called Fortuno, and several others. Another great feature are the replaceable wheels which will prolong the life of your investment. Overall, I consider the JetCart design pretty flawless and exceptionally user friendly. I'll be posting more on packing tips including photos later this week to show how to get two weeks worth of clothes and accessories to your destination without breaking your back or the bank, with NO checked baggage fees or endless waits at a luggage carousel. Currently on sale on the Walkin' Bag website for $119.00, the company is also offering free shipping during this promotion. A link to be added here by me later this week will save readers of this blog an additional 10% off any purchase so be sure to check back soon....
Many thanks to Toru Saskaki of Swany's Walkin' Bag for allowing me the opportunity to review this item.