Sunday, May 30, 2010
For many years we hired our next door neighbor to mow the lawn. Last year my brother wanted to save us the money we paid for this, and bought a lawn tractor and vowed to mow our lawn, which was quite sweet of him. We did fine last year but it is not working out very well this year. Stubbornly I have been trying to mow my three acre yard with an electric push mower. That is not working so well either.
What to do? My brother is trying the best he can to assist, but the lawn tractor he bought is old, and my wacky problem with The Legs is not conducive to driving the thing safely. I may try to run it tomorrow as I have mowed about an acre today, that leaves two to go. When he runs it, it makes his pre-existing back problem worse, so I become consumed with guilt just to have a decent looking yard.
On top of everything, my central air is not working. I have a unit in my sunroom that works, and a whole-house fan that I can use to cool the house at night, but without the central air in the daytime it gets mighty muggy down here in old Missouri. Getting competent people to work on AC in my rural area is hard to do but I have someone's name who was recommended by a friend, so will try next week to call him. Holiday weekends are bad times to have equipment failures!
Tonight I am hot, tired, sweaty and The Legs and The Headache are protesting. But in front of the house the lawn is almost perfect, and I almost have the front portion of the side yard complete. This means I can look out the front windows and pretend the entire yard looks like this! Maybe I should just do this, live in story book perfect yard land just in my head, and never look out of any of the other windows again!
The main problem with tall grass in this section of the country is copperheads. These are silent snakes of the cottonmouth variety, and do not have rattles to warn you one is near. We have found them in tall grass near my driveway, just behind the garden, and in the utility sheds. I have a desire to have a copperheadless yard, where anyone can walk without fear of venomous snakes, so a well groomed yard is a necessity not a whim.
The flexeril Doctor SassyPants prescribed is not doing too well for The Legs and the nerve pain. I am trying to give it time, but may ask if I can increase the dose next week. Very difficult nights lately. One of these days I will catch up on sleep! I may pack my skanky old head in ice pretty soon, and see if I can lull The Headache into thinking everything is just fine!
I wish I could have one three day weekend where everything went perfectly. My family seems to decide to have all its crisis days on my days off. I don't know how we manage to time it so perfectly, but it certainly makes life interesting.
I almost forgot - I rescued a lost brown dachshund today at WallyWorld. An older lady came up to me while I was putting groceries in the trunk of my car (I am one of those people that strangers tell their life stories to, so I am used to being approached by people I don't know) and asked if I could help the little dog she had seen running through the HUGE parking lot. I drove my car over to where the little dog was last seen by the lady, and there he was. As soon as I approached, he ran into the propane tank business next to WallyWorld. It took me about 45 minutes but I persuaded him to come to me by jangling my keys and promising we would take a ride. He certainly knew what that meant. Luckily he had a collar with tags on it.
His name was "Oscar" and there was a phone number on it. Nobody was home and her voice mail was full, so I brought Oscar to my house for a visit, and found another phone number for Oscar's owner. I left a message, and about 3o minutes later she called. I found out how to get to her house, and drove Oscar back home. His momma owner was a little younger than my mom (probably in her 70's) and Oscar had managed to crawl out her slightly opened car window while he waited in the car for her to finish shopping at WallyWorld. Oscar was soooo happy to see her he hopped out of the car right into her arms and then pee'd on her! A happy ending for everyone, except her white blouse - eeck.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Memorial Day weekend, so in addition to having a good time with friends and family, please take a moment to remember our fallen soldiers and loved ones who are no longer with us. I am praying especially hard this weekend for protection of all of our men and women active in the service of this country, putting themselves in harm's way so we don't have to. Buy a poppy from a veteran if you can!It's
In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
- John McCrae
Monday, May 24, 2010
We Have a Plan
Saw a new doctor today, the physiologist. I'm gonna nickname him Dr. SassyPants, because he's the cheerful joking kind of doc that gets down to brass tacks quickly but keeps it light. Doc SassyPants quickly decided that I didn't have facet joint arthritis problems, and a facet joint injection wouldn't help. Then I had to do some tricks like walk on my heels, tippy toe forward, and walk flat footed, all the while worrying that my paper exam shorts were going to fall around my ankles and trip me! Thank God I had on my granny underwear for modesty's sake.
For the exam (I guess because it's of the lower spine) they had me put on a pair of paper shorts that must have been made for Humpty Dumpty. They were so wide they wouldn't stay up, and so short in the seat that I couldn't get them pulled up to a decent height and the bottoms of the legs were below my knees. I'd like to know what sort of person they designed those things for - I just can't imagine anyone that wide with so short a straddle region and such long legs. I'm short and wide myself and I was lost in these things. They must only come in one size - HUGEMONGOUS.
I came out of the appointment with a plan of action: a script for a muscle relaxer to help my right piriformis muscle relax (I had to request a different med - the one Dr. SassyPants prescribed wasn't covered by my new insurance and was $300 a month! Waiting on the new script), a referral to pain management to be evaluated for a peripheral nerve stimulator for the pain, a referral to physical therapy for some help with my foot drop and weakness and the piriformis muscle problems, and a referral to a pelvic pain physical therapy group for the pudendal nerve issues. Per Dr. SassyPants if the muscle relaxer doesn't work, we will then try Botox injections in the Buttocks to get the piriformis muscle to relax.
I don't have much in the way of reflexes left in my knees and none in my ankles. I know my right leg is worse than my left, and the foot drop is worse on the right foot. Dr. SassyPants says that radiation induced lumbosacral plexopathy is the culprit and there really is no fixing it (as I suspected) but we can try and manage it. I did tell him that I was not sure if I wanted to pursue the pudendal nerve therapy as just about any touch against that nerve sets me into to a world of pain for about a month. I will go to the evaluation and decide after learning what their treatment plan is. As soon as I get my script for the muscle relaxer, I am to quit taking the Soma - which isn't doing an awful lot anyway.
I'm thinking the cane is going to be a permanent fixture in my life. Maybe I will treat myself to an antique cool cane - one with a sword in the handle or a drinking flask under the knob, or mother of pearl inlays with ebony accents.. or maybe I will get one with flames and skulls all over it. Or how about one of those English Hunting Sticks that turn into a portable seat?? Hmmm, I could have an entire wardrobe of canes! What a fashion accessory!
On the road tomorrow morning back out to some clients. Luckily I have a co-worker who is going to drive us - thank heavens for her help, because I don't think The Legs would be able to make it this time. I am coming back Wednesday, no stay overs this week as I don't believe I will be able to walk more than a couple of days the way The Legs are feeling tonight.
Called Cleveland Clinic, and I will go back there on June 24th, and will return at about the same time in July. I will have to pick up the electronic headache diary in June and take it back in July after updating it for a month - then I will be through!!! Hopefully the occipital stimulator results will get published and the device will get FDA approval for migraine headache pain relief. Too many people are suffering from intractable headaches that are like me - out of medication options.
Beanie the snake bit Boston terrier is doing really well. His foot is back to normal size and there doesn't seem to be any necrosis in the bite area. Woo Hoo!
Triumphant Weekend Otherwise
My brother's Boston terrier Beanie got bitten Saturday by a venemous copperhead snake. When it first happened my brother thought perhaps Beanie had sprained his shoulder as he would not walk on his left front leg. I had had a dog bitten by a copperhead many years before and was suspicious of a snake bite right away, but my brother was sure he had hurt his leg. Being Saturday afternoon, our local vet was not in, so we took him to the nearest emergency vet about 35 miles away. About five minutes into the ride, my brother said "Beanie's foot is swelling, and I think I see fang marks and venom is seeping out". Definitely a snake bite, and since we kill three or four copperheads a year in my yard we knew what kind it was.
As luck would have it, I carry Benedryl (the wonder drug) with me everywhere because of my numerous allergic reactions, and how we had treated the dog years ago had been aspirin and benedryl (per the vet's instructions) so we gave him 25 mg. of Benedryl. Almost immediately the swelling stopped getting worse (poor Beanie's foot was about twice the size it should have been) and Beanie seemed to be in less pain, and a little sleepy (a good side effect of Benedryl).
We get to the emergency vet, and he says (confirming what my vet said years ago) that dogs are hard to kill with snake bites. Benedryl would have been given, but since we had already given that they were able to skip that step, and give him prednisone, antibiotics (because snake mouths are NASTY dirty), and some pain killers. Poor Beanie was really really stoned but in no pain the rest of the evening. Today his foot was much smaller and he was able to walk on it. The meds will need to be continued the next few days, but Beanie is a very reluctant pill taker, so administering the pills is a challenge. He's out here on the couch sitting near me wanting my sympathy while everyone else is asleep. I'll sing him his sleepy song soon to help him go beddy bye.
Other than the Beanie crisis, I have had a pretty good weekend. I have push mowed part of my lawn, weed eaten part of the lawn, cooked and shopped for groceries - on top of working about a 60 hour week last week and traveling. The Headache is trying to pitch a fit this evening, but hadn't had a peep out of it for the last two days, even with all the exercise. Woo Hoo!!! Hoping I have finally whooped some of the problem excercising out of The Headache. Maybe I can start swimming again this summer or walking in the evenings?
The Legs are not so happy, but their pain is nothing compared to The Headache so I'll take a little bad with the good, no problem. I see the physiatrists tomorrow morning, so will see what they have to say about The Legs. My PCP thinks they will be able to do facet blocks to help me, I am not so sure myself. Some of these have to be guided by contrast enhanced flouroscopes or CT scans, so no go on that for me. No contrast unless life or death - the anaphylatoid reactions are just too scary for me.
Am somewhat worried about The Cleveland Clinic, as I am supposed to keep the stinky palm pilot headache diary one more month for the conclusion of the study, which should be soon, but I have not heard from them. I will try and contact the study coordinator tomorrow as I am about so booked up with travel the next few months I won't be able to have any free time to go to Cleveland!
I am going to try to switch immunologists from Kansas City to a local group. After my local immunologist died a couple of years ago there was no one locally to go to, but they have finally recruited someone to the area. I thought I would give him a try because while I have great doctors in Kansas City, the drive is becoming harder and harder for me to do because of The Legs. I have an appointment locally on June 15th. They were able to put me in as an established patient because I had been seeing the old immunologist. Whew! Otherwise it would have been about a year wait for an appointment, which was almost how long I had to wait for the first Kansas City appointment.
My sister was a sweetheart and loaned me many miles of extension cords to help me with my mowing/weedeating extravaganza. I have an electric pushmower and a light weight electric weed eater. My brother assisted by doing the majority of the mowing with his lawn tractor, but I did the portion in front of the house and one of the side yards. I think I have somehow gotten exposed to poison ivy or I'm allergic to something because I have little tiny spots of intensely itching lumps all up and down my legs, on my face, in my hair, down my arms, on my fingers, and down my back. Sigh. I did get a little sun without getting a sun burn which is a major accomplishment for me. I generally burn all summer long!
Travelling again Tuesday and Wednesday, planning on being back Thursday. Will be traveling the last part of June/early July to yet another client's, but hoping that the next install the new trainer will have enough training under her belt to strike out on her own! She has been great, a real asset to the install team, I'm so glad she is with us.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The Headache ruins my brain interface with the rest of my body. I don't react right, I forget things like car keys in my hand, I have trouble comprehending conversations or reading because I am experiencing the world through a screen of pain and confusion. What makes it through that filter has to be very clear cut or else it gets all blurry and fuzzy and choppy and my brain can't quite make it out without extra concentration. Extra concentration just is not happening when The Headache makes itself known.
Had a couple of days at home, trying to do what I had to do yesterday because for me it was a good day where I had some extra energy. Today not so good. Going back to the clients tomorrow, second week after go-live. Not sure who all will be there with me besides my programmer/system engineer side kick. Giving the new trainer a week off to be with her family - she has been a real trooper, but even troopers need some R&R. We had a bit of a problem Friday with converted data, but hopefully had it all straightened out of its spaghetti mess at the end of the day - typical of system conversions, something unexpected always happens, but it was easily fixable once we defined what needed to be fixed. My side kick and I work really well as a pair (I'm not really sure which one of us is the true side kick - I truly think I am probably both the side kick and the comic relief rolled up in one) having been down this route a few times over the years. Same drill - different locations.
My bosses (did I ever mention I love my job and my bosses??) bid out new health insurance, and now instead of paying $120 a month for stinky Anthem, I am getting United Healthcare nationwide coverage as a free benefit! Woo Hoo! I am sure there will be a downside to United the same as there was for Anthem, but so far so good. All my specialists are in network, and that includes the Cleveland Clinic! There also is no in-area out-of-area network like Anthem had. Another Woo Hoo! Of course all the people in Canada and other countries are thinking "isn't the health insurance in the United States crazy??" and I'm nodding my head "Yes it is!" - trust us to make something simple into a bureaucratic nightmare.
I think my head needs a tune up, perhaps some new spark plugs...a filter change...or a new cam shaft. Where's a brain mechanic when you need one??
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Hoping to Get Through The Week
Went back early to the motel from the client's today. My legs have been acting up, and since this is the third week I have been on my pins quite a bit, today was the day when they revolted. Besides the pain, the weakness is getting progressively worse so they feel all noodley. The cane helps, but this week it is not enough. I lounged on the motel bed trying to find a comfortable position and let the muscles and nerves rest. I'm not sure if it helped much, but it'll have to do!
The amount of medication I am taking is not enough, but I can't function if I take enough. Just trying to get the mission accomplished this week, and hopefully recover over the weekend before I have to come back next week. I am dreading the two hour drive back home Friday.
Up now, what medication I took earlier has worn off, and the feet and The Legs are objecting. Can't keep the noodle legs still when they are like this.
I have an appointment with a pain management/sports medicine group of physiatrists to see if there is a next phase of treatment for me. I had a CT of my spine a few weeks ago, and it came out normal - which was what I expected, but an MRI I had done last year of my lower spine showed mild arthritis in a couple of facet joints/connections in the radiation field so my PCP thinks that some facet injections might help. However, the same MRI showed no nerve root impingement or stenosis so I don't think injections will do the job Hoping maybe we can come up with something that will improve the leg problem. Just wondering if injections will make the legs even weaker. Sigh....I am really tired of seeing doctors, but am not ready to give up trying yet.
This install has been going very smoothly, so I am happy about that. These clients are wonderful, and have handled the stress of going live on a new system admirably. Hoping the rest of the installs this year will be as great as this one. Going to try to go to sleep soon if I can get The Legs to calm down.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Tired But Happy
On Friday I had a colonscopy. This was the third time I've had one, so I was all too familiar with the "prep" for the test. Bleeeagh.
My brother, who drove in to take me to the appointment, said there were some people selling morels by the side of the road as he came off the interstate. To heck if we are late for the colonoscopy, I had to get some of those morels!!! We sped off, and scored some prime mushrooms for supper that night. Yes, they were very expensive, but yes, they were worth it! I was ready to fight off all comers just to get some morel goodness.
For those of you that have eaten morels and no longer live where you can find them free for the picking, you know why we were in a hurry. It had been a long morel dry spell for our family, and we had just been mourning because the season was soon to be over and yet another year was going to pass without mushroom deliciousness on our plates. If you have never eaten a morel, then never mind - you won't understand! This was the first time we had seen some for sale for YEARS.
My sister and younger brother helped Mom cook the mushrooms, and my brother in law, my older brother and I helped eat them. Woo Hoo!!!! Shrooms, shrooms and more shrooms to eat. I could only eat a few - we like them fried, and The Belly could only handle a handful, but they were wonderful, as good as I remembered. Sigh. We divided up the left over booty and everyone had a few more today!
I grew up on a farm, and part of our spring ritual was to go mushroom hunting in our creeks to find the elusive morels before the deer ate them. They are hard to see but once you find your first one they are easier to spot. Generally it was about the time the wild violets bloomed when the morels sprouted. Some years you only found a few and once in a great while you found so many you had to share with lots of people. No one shared their mushrooming locations though! No such luck where I live now. Not the right environment for morels around here. We have only found a couple in 20 years.
The colonoscopy went fine, they took some biopsies and I guess we'll see then. Not too worried - problems are probably related to the radiation exposure and my constant problems with The Belly. I was glad I woke up enough to have some mushrooms that evening!
Traveling early tomorrow and will be gone all next week. The Legs have not been happy the last couple of days, but the cane is helping. I am in much less pain than I was at the last install. I did break over and buy a cane with "bling" so hopefully my coworkers will be appeased by my attempt at stylishness. Not looking forward to the next few days but am soldiering through!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I Must Have a Fairy Godmother Somewhere
Once Upon A Time there was a middle aged lady who had had some health setbacks, but all in all she was coping pretty well. Things didn't always go her way healthwise: she had some bad luck with doctors, side effects, and reactions to things other people never had problems with, but really life was good. Then after a procedure that fixed one problem another appeared, a curse that lasts to this day - hemicrania continua.
This curse is a fairly rare curse, probably brewed up by some bad mojo somewhere in a past life, but when it hits it sticks. The middle aged lady was afraid her life as she had always known it was over. Medicine after medicine failed, spells that could not remove the hemicrania curse. The middle aged lady thought maybe her doctors did not have powerful enough magic, so she found other doctors with different magic again and again until she found one with a potion that helped - indomethacin.
Apparently indomethacin could help the curse but it also carried its own poison that hurt the middle aged lady at the same time it helped. What to do? The middle aged lady was dismayed. No one could help, no medicine helped, no treatment helped, no doctor was powerful enough. The kindest doctor of them all suggested that the middle aged lady get a powerful talisman called an "occipital stimulator". It had been rumored (so the doctor whispered) that the occipital stimulator could be used to short circuit the curse of hemicrania continua, but it is a rare wonderful charm that only a few wizards in very big castles could install.
The middle aged woman decided it was worth the journey of many days to see the wizard in the Cleveland Clinic who said he knew how to apply the charm of the occipital stimulator. The Evil Anthem Golems tried to spoil the trip by saying that the talisman was very very expensive and not proven to be effective, and they would not help pay for it. The middle aged woman drove all by herself through ice and snow and blizzards while in great pain to reach the snowy castle hoping that the great wizards would assist her in her plight.
Praying to God for guidance and help, the middle aged woman met the wizards in the Cleveland Clinic. The most powerful wizard of them all saw her pain and despair and knew that he could help her with the occipital stimulator and welcomed her into the occipital stimulator trial study even though she was supposed to be excluded because of the curse. The middle aged woman was happy, yet very skeptical. After all, many doctors had tried and they had not been able to stop the curse. Why would this wizard and his talisman be any different? Surely this was too good to be true.
Many months pass as the middle aged woman battled dragons of pain and pesky palm pilot diaries and Evil Anthem Golems and a surgical trial of the occipital stimulator in order to be worthy to receive the final powerful charm. Finally the occipital stimulator is implanted by the kindly powerful wizard, and it worked! The curse slowly started to release its grip on the middle aged lady's life. The claws of pain that had worked their way deep into the middle aged lady's head started to retract, millimeter by millimeter as the talisman buzzed it magic on her occipital nerve.
Now the middle aged lady still has other health problems, but the curse no longer dominates her life with nonstop pain. The curse still wakes up and tries to take command, but the talisman beats it back to submission most days. On the days the talisman doesn't work so well the middle aged woman remembers what life would have been like all the time if not for the wonderful wizards in Cleveland and St. Jude Medical, and is thankful for the relatively pain free life she has. And she lives happily ever after (hopefully!).
The moral of the story: Sometimes when something seems too good to be true, it really is true, but you will never find out if you don't try it!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Our schedule here is changed yet again, but I am flexible. We discussed with the clients what it means if they switch off their old system one day earlier than originally planned. Not much difference for us, except I have to move training around and train bigger classes, which is more difficult. The more people you train, the less control you have over the process, but with the new gal helping it should be just fine.
I thought maybe I could skate out of here a day or two early, and that may still happen simply because everthing has been moved up. Maybe messing with my schedule is what is making The Headache worse, but I really think it was the couple of hour drive getting here this morning.
Love working with computers, but wishing my brain circuits were better wired. Even my lovely electronic head zapper isn't keeping up tonight. Praying for sleep to come soon.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Getting into road warrior mode - this is when you have everything arranged, ready to go, with a minimum of preparation, able to travel at the drop of a hat. You know true road warriors when you travel - they are the folks who always have their coats and shoes off already at the TSA checkpoints at the airport. They always know what time zone they are in, what the local weather is like, and where you can get the best barbque. They speed through rental car kiosks, and navigate strange roads with impunity. My bosses are the true road warriors, I am still just a road warrior in training!
A looooong week last week, going to work today to print out materials for next week. The new trainer is MARVELOUS!!! I think I am going to be able to hand over duties to her without a worry, she just needs to learn some of the jargon that goes with hospital business offices and she's ready to roll on her own, at least for the modules she has seen trained! I don't want her to get burned out traveling, because she has two school aged children and that is a worry when you are on the road - not the kids themselves but all the appointments they need to keep, and practices they need to go to, and activities they are in. Modern moms tho, seem to have the organization thing down pat with cell phones, internet calendars, and texting. Guess I'm just too old for that.
The Headache was bad a couple of days last week, but I managed to ice down the head at night to keep it in control with help from the stimulator. Last year this couldn't have happened - The Headache would have been very bad just from walking to the training site from the car! The Belly has been behaving admirably, maybe because I'm not feeding it too much. The Legs are another thing entirely. If it wasn't for The Cane, The Legs would not be making it. Some sleepless nights, but I just can't do the amount of medication it takes to fix The Legs without messing with The Headache and The Brain, so I've just been toughing it mostly. I think I can make it through this install which is a couple of more weeks. I pray I can make it.
My co-workers have been giving me fits because I have a plain black cane. They think I need a cane with bling. I'm not too sure about that - I mostly wear dark colors when in road warrior mode, because they mix and match better and don't show dirt, and feel the black cane blends (as much as a cane can!). I did find myself looking at some blingy canes including one with kitties all over it, but not sure if I could walk leaning on a cane full of kitty cat pictures. I would be thinking "meow, meow, meow" everytime I leaned on it!
I did make sure I reserved a bottom floor room at the hotel. I got stuck once on an install in a top story room when The Legs gave out on me a few years ago. I couldn't get out of bed, let alone down the stairs. Spent a day flat on my back and was able to walk (barely) the next day. Not doing that again at a hotel without an elevator if I can help it!
The backup hotel we were going to use is in a town that got hit by a tornado not long after we drove through it on our way home Friday, and their sewage treatment center is not working having been hit by the tornado also, so not sure if we are going to be able to use it. Sigh. Tornado season in the midwest, it certainly can be an adventure!
The clients are wonderful, easy to train, with lots of good questions. I am hoping that this will be a great install, easy on them and easy on us. Looking forward to go-live day in a week! Now if I can just get The Legs to do what they are supposed to - driving myself next week and the week after because I have different hours than the rest of the team, so not sure how The Legs, The Headache, and The Belly are going to behave. They don't like me to drive very much any more, and I actually used to love to drive long distances. Sigh again.
Unless I take my work laptop with me, I won't be posting on the road, but I hope to be home Tuesday evening this week, and probably not home at all the following week. Take care my blogging friends! Hoping for no pain and no fuss for all of us!