The Incompatibility of Christmas and Chronic Health Issues

A few weeks ago I visited my PCP about trying that new IBS-D drug Viberzi. He gave me samples and called in a prescription. But the RX would cost me $100 a month, and the drug warnings included that it is not for people who drink.

I drink.

I also prefer my pancreas to be healthy, so I decided to forgo the new drug. Instead, I thought I hit on a genius solution. One Immodium at night. Initially, it seemed perfect; slowing my system enough that I felt like I had control over my wayward innards and wasn’t spending a fortune or risking other organs to do it.

Ah, but–the bitter pill (seriously, it tastes like shit if you don’t swallow it fast enough) was that it slowed things down too much. I got heartburn like the Devil. If I ate a normal sized meal, it sat and sat and sat until I offered a name placard and formal office space. I stepped down to half of a tablet at night. But, then, it was Christmas Eve. For us, Christmas Eve means posole and tamales and all that. I LOVE posole. This year, however, posole did not love me. In fact, posole caused me to feel like the Hindenberg but without opportunity to explode. Every time the puppy stepped on my gut I thought I might literally burst. I kind of hoped to burst.

Up and down all night, I (surprisingly wisely) forwent the Immodium that night. So things got a little better, but I still spent Christmas Day with nausea and heartburn. I fucking ate posole for lunch anyway, dammit, because I’m not ready for my old age and plain oatmeal for every meal.

That kind of thing is just normal stuff for me. No one but me knows I am suffering at all, and I was pleased that at least I didn’t get a migraine like I did last year on Christmas Day. I had my usual back pain, wrist pain, and thumb pain (puppy-wrangling takes its toll as she gets bigger). I spent a lot of time on the floor fetching presents and redirecting Choux-Choux and playing with my granddaughters who are 6 and 2.

Once everyone left, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing, but I stepped on a rawhide on the kitchen floor and being the tremendously graceful creature that I am, I fell down, smacking my knees then hands to the tile floor. In front of my husband who was….wait for it…..looking at his phone so he didn’t see it happen. I have some lovely bruising starting on my knees as fond mementos. So, that’s the other side of photos of great clothes, style, hair and makeup. If he had taken a picture, we would have had a great “I Hate Sundays” post but no, he lacks dedication. -eye roll-

 

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An Ode to Lyrica

My PCP and I had agreed, some time ago, that once the heart madness settled down, we would pursue finding a drug that would potentially work on generalized anxiety, the gut issues and migraines. The theory was that since the gut and the heart are very dependent on one another, medication that soothed the other issues would also benefit my heart. It was solid reasoning.

We already know that Cymbalta is not our friend (serotonin syndrome, up for two days clenching my teeth and wildly anxious). We know that Effexor is an enemy (19 day period, folks, NINETEEN DAYS). So, we tried Lyrica. After about 2-3 days at 50 mg a night, I was having migraines that were back to easily aborted with Fioricet. So we went up to 75 mg at night, while still carefully weaning off the Xanax–and I haven’t had a migraine since.

The first issue were the dreams. They are nearly hallucinatory in nature, and they go on all night long. I wake up, I am mostly aware that I was dreaming, I go back to sleep and it picks right back up. Sometimes I would think that a conversation that happened in a dream had actually happened, and have to then try to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. As usual, I wanted to be a good patient and not quit too soon. I could handle weird dreams,  told myself, even if they were more than just dreams and disrupted my sleep and emotions and I was starting to fear them.

Last week, I noticed that I was having small, random thoughts of suicide. They didn’t even seem to be my own thoughts, they were just there, briefly intrusive, then gone. I texted this to my PCP but he was on his way out of town and trying to finish my FMLA paperwork and I think he didn’t see it. So I mentioned it to my spouse (who is sometimes not so well equipped to respond to these things emotionally and immediately asked if I was saying I wanted to quit my job–the thing is, when people say they aren’t sure they are thinking rationally, it doesn’t help to ask questions that demand rational answers).

A few more days of monitoring my intrusive thoughts (“you could just take the whole bottle of Xanax”) and I texted my PCP that Lyrica is, along with so many others, not the option for me. Backing down to 50 mg last night the dreams were so hallucinatory and weird that I really feel I didn’t sleep at all. I’ve advised the spouse that in a week, he may need to be in charge of dispensing Xanax if I begin to crash and my brain is not my own for awhile. And, of course, that means the migraines may very well return.

Back, as always, to the damn drawing board. I hate the drawing board.

Measurements

The first weeks of each year, my intro lab class learns how to measure an actor for costumes. This is what we do; we cast a show, we measure actors, we make costumes for them and pull shoes and such for them, and it’s all based on those measurements. There’s a lot involved–how do you best approach a person you may never have met before in order to measure their bust and hips and inseam? What is proper etiquette? How do you efficiently wrangle a 60″ vinyl measuring tape so that you can see the numbers and not pull anyone’s hair or get tangled in your own web?

Measuring physical attributes is much easier than measuring less concrete things. I am trying to measure less tangible stuff right now, like, “How hard do I push to have a wrong corrected that is actively impacting my job?” or “How disabled am I?” or “How sick is chronically ill? What level of chronically ill am I?” My FMLA paperwork came back today granting me up to eight days a month of leave. Last year it was four, and I never took them. I took an hour or two here, or there, a couple of half days. An entire day a week? Unthinkable. Thus, TWO DAYS a week? Ha!

A FB and real life friend posted something the other day asking at what point does one measure their job as too much? When they cry once a week? Have to start taking anxiety medication? Have panic attacks at work? Another friend posted that she once found herself driving to work in a snow storm, and thinking that if she just let the car slide a little ways into the guardrail, she’d be able to call in sick due to having had an accident. I have an extremely talented friend who said to me, about her job, “Part of the time I think I’m just really important to this job and then, suddenly, I think I need to resign immediately because it’s so awful to be here.”

Stress and a chronic disorder play off one another, and it becomes hard to manage. My facade gets better and better the more stressed I am, a trap I designed for myself long ago and have spent a lot of time trying to undo–sometimes with more success than others. Coming out of this particular summer with less than zero emotional resilience in the tank, it’s hard to measure which things are temporary and which are indicators that I am taking on too much and remaining in a toxic environment long past when it’s worthwhile. I can’t, yet, measure the distance between this and the next thing—which is why I’m stuck, at least for the moment.

All the Horror

Where to start? Where the Electrophysiologist in El Paso told us, unequivocally, that the June 10 ablation had failed and the *only* recourse was to go to Austin to see the Number One Guy.

Then there was a lot of bullshit with the Number One Guy’s office, detailed here previously. Go find it, I’m not up to linking.

Then the NOG’s office called Monday. I mentioned the following: Very very anxious, taking Xanax three times a day. Also very worried that I wasn’t feeling the PVCs. “Oh, hon, don’t worry, he’ll be able to induce them.”

I set down the biggest burden I was then carrying.

We go to Austin. Nine hour drive. Check into our hotel (special medical rate of $109 a night, expected 5 night stay). The next morning at the NOG’s office, the EKG shows that I am not having any PVCs.

This was my WORST FEAR. NOG is vague. It goes like this:

NOG’s PA on the phone last week: So, how’re ya doing?
Me: Well, anxiety’s pretty high, actually.
PA: shore, shore, hon, that’s to be expected.
Me: yeah, taking a lotta xanax, and actually, and I’m sure this is anxiety speaking, and I know you are busy, but, I just have this paranoid fear that I’m not having the PVCs as much or at all? I should probably just take more xanax, right?
PA: Oh, don’t you worry, doctor will just induce that rhythm.
Me: (SO RELIEVED) oh, okay, great.
Fast forward to today (a 9 hour drive and $109 a night hotel later):
ONE SECOND before Doc walks in I say to Husband, “Let him not say I am not having PVCs or that it’s up to me what to do”
Doc with not much warmth: So, you aren’t having any PVCs. [a bunch more other horseshit] It’s basically up to you. So, let’s get you pre-registered.

At Admitting:
Nurse: blah blah blah
Chuck: (in the hallway on the phone with my mother agreeing that this seems like a bad idea)
Me: (babbling emotional diarrhea) so don’t know what to do, thinking of just bagging the whole thing, feel like an asshole…
Nurse: are you taking anything for anxiety?
Me: Xanax, 3 times a day.
Nurse: that can suppress PVCs. Let me call anesthesia AND pharmacy to confirm that. Yep, that’s a fact!
Me:
Me:
Me: can you ask my husband to come back in here?
And that’s how we spent a day in Austin walking uphill in 100 degree (plus humidity) heat, drinking coffee with wine, carrying a 1963 Enid Collins purse that caused people to stop and worship, sobbing about being an asshole, and planning to give a hospital over $3000 the next day for a heart that might not perform. Modern medicine.

It is medically very dangerous to abruptly stop Xanax. So I was up all night that night, sleeping about 1.5 hours. By the time we reached the hospital I was manic, clenching my teeth, paranoid, and crying. We were scheduled for a 7:30 go. Things they didn’t tell me: any emergent case coming into the hospital would be put ahead of me.

They didn’t take me back until around 11:30.

Once in the lab, which is a huge room with a HUGE screen, there are a lot of people, and I’m naked (I ultimately get a blanket). they are putting a million goddamned sticky connectors on me; some huge, many small. they are exposing one boob, then the next boob, then my ass, etc, etc. Finally I am strapped down into an immobilizing thing–arms packed in foam and tied down, legs the same, head/neck the same, and an oxygen mask strapped to my face. Then they all walk away, and the board starts showing all these stats.
They give me a drug to slow my heart rate to induce PVCs. It takes forever, I can’t move my head. I don’t know what the board things mean. I keep feeling out of body (Xanax withdrawal, exhaustion, stress). My blood pressure is 157/109, higher than I’ve ever seen it.  I feel like I need to pee and it’s freaking me out. They won’t give me anything to calm me down. (I was obsessed that my crotch smelled bad, and they’d all smell it and talk about me being disgusting). So it takes forever to slow the heart rate, and people wander in and out of the room, and say things like, “Nothing happening yet?” Um, I don’t know. But thanks for making me feel like I’m not performing.
After awhile they say they are going to try speeding my heart up. I react to that drug really fast, and my heart goes up to 165 in about 10 or 15 minutes. It felt like I was going to watch my heart burst from my chest. Finally, the cocksucker expert doctor comes out and says, “We’re not seeing anything, so there’s nothing else to do.” Twenty more minutes are spent unhooking me, naked, in a big room with people still coming in and out. Then off to recovery, but they don’t go tell my husbnd anything. I wait in recovery for about 45 minutes before asking them to get him. He finally arrives, thinking it was a full procedure, so I have to explain to him that no, it was a negative study.
THEN, my (male) nurse, seems to feel that my being angry and frustrated means he needs to stay in there and mansplain PVCs , and  “my own theory” and some tale of his kid cutting his finger camping and I am thinking, “GET OUT. GET OUT. We haven’t even talked about this, GET OUT.” Finally we are released and I cry for the next hour and a half. All the way back to the hotel. Sitting on the couch in the room. The spouse hands me a xanax and a glass of wine and then steers me to bed. I cry until I sleep for about 2 hours. Then he gets Korean food and we watch the (lame) Opening Ceremonies and crawl back into bed before the sun goes down.
Then we drive home, nine long hours, and fifteen minutes after I get home, I have an aura. Then another one. Now, nothing has gone numb and no headache, but…..hard to trust.
What remains:
Maybe my heart was fixed in June and the El Paso doc jumped the fucking gun and cost me a LOT. A LOT.
Maybe the Xanax was still affecting it and now it will come back, sometime, don’t know when.
I have to find a way to safely go off the Xanax.
I really, now, have no medical team.
Everything else seems fucked up.
I have very, very little coping skills left.

 

Women Are Anxious So It Doesn’t Count

Right? I am lucky that my spouse and my PCP know that I am not anxious because I have labia/ovaries/a uterus, but the rest of the world? Good luck.

I had a shrink tell me once that worrying is like wishing for something bad to happen, which gave me a complex on top of my complex (a duplex? Complexi?) because now I was worried that by worrying I was making the thing I was worried about happen and I didn’t want it to happen that’s why I was worrying! Job security for one of us, there.

I also know that worrying is a form of wanting to be in control of things. WHAT? Yes. I have anxiety because I feel responsible for things I am actually not responsible for, and nothing gets me stuck in that head space like medical stuff. The next heart procedure is scheduled for August 5th in Austin, Texas. Here’s some things I’m worrying about:

  1. Long have I monitored my blood pressure and pulse with a machine I felt I was too young to have to buy, but now it has become a very unhealthy, possibly abusive relationship as I check it 50,000,000 times a day. The last few days have not shown the numbers that indicate the PVCs so yesterday I panicked over that because what if I spontaneously healed and we go to Austin and I waste our money being told to go away by the surgeon? And IF that happened what if then the PVCs returned mid-semester and we had to go back to Austin and it would be more complicated and probably ruin Christmas and I am sure you are really, really glad they haven’t come up with a home EKG machine, I know I am because I would do nothing else all day long. This particular thought spiral truly has no end, so today I have checked it once and am going to try to take a break (but not see other bp machines) from that relationship. It can only show me one thing which is how fast my pulse is and while the low numbers are often indicators even if they aren’t showing up that doesn’t mean anything at all, let it go let it go let it go…..
  2. I will likely have to take FMLA and miss the beginning of the semester because of recovery time, but I can’t get that ball rolling right now because the medical assistant in Austin (whom I emailed with questions first thing Monday morning) hasn’t replied. My anxiety thinks it’s because I have already annoyed her and she hates me and will order an extra IV because I am bugging her so how much worse will I make things if I call to follow up so that I can actually PLAN AHEAD so that my workplace can figure out what to do without me for what is currently an unknown period of time? Yet, until I know how much time to amend my FMLA for, I can’t do anything at all. Except play that fucking Match 3 game (Wizard of Oz, very addicting).
  3. I think I have an ear infection, but my brain has decided I have some flesh-eating bacteria and I am really sitting on my hands not to text my husband and give instructions for what to do if the only way to save my life is by lopping off appendages (send me to hospice, dude, I need hands to live) and such. Because: my crazy is self-aware.

I could go on, but you surely get the picture. I am not asking for advice, really; Xanax and I spend our evenings together with a glass of wine so that I can take a little brain-break, and it’s thought that once the heart thing is controlled, the anxiety will ease off. My PCP and I have further plans to try medication for generalized anxiety that also stabilizes the gut once this cardiac thing is resolved. Right now, though, all I can do is white-knuckle it and try to laugh at what my brain comes up with to trip my trigger with.

Just Gonna Slip a Little Update In Here….

Three weeks post op, the Cardiac Electrophysiologist (EP) has deemed the ablation a failure. I had about a week where, for me, my heart settled into a pretty good rhythm, then a week ago last Sunday we were at the movies and I almost fainted. I wrote it off to a horrible scene (we were watching a documentary, ffs, and there was no warning that we might suddenly be treated to some ISIS type cutting a living person’s hand off in grainy footage) that was the sort that will live in my brain forever.

Later in the day, though, I got fainty again. By that Monday I was back in the bad PVC rhythm, and it was clear from the EKG I had on Friday that it is the same PVC they had hoped to have ablated. I spent the week a) feeling very unwell due to heart weirdness and b)feeling extremely anxious about what the EP would say. And what he said was that the Ablation failed. On our way out I had to go sit in the pubic bathroom stall and cry before I could get it together enough to get in the truck to go home. It’s beyond disappointing and frightening.

Now there are a bunch of unknowns. Tomorrow the EP will call to let me know how soon they can send me to Austin to see the Numbah Won Guy in the country or the world (the EP debated this a bit as my mind murmured, “This is internal dialogue, sweetie, internal.”) who will do an Epicardial VT Ablation. This is rare enough that the internetz and Dr Google have little to offer me beyond technical journal articles. There’s no
“What to expect from this procedure” or “What IS this procedure exactly” or “How soon can you have it after having the catheter abalation?” etc. Also, I have developed a really unhealthy relationship with my blood pressure monitor.

In the meantime I feel worse than I did before the first procedure. My pulse yesterday ranged from 137 to 46. There is no way a person can feel good with that going on. We don’t have a savings account for “have to fly to Austin for heart surgery” nor do I know how it will affect my job. I suck at unknowns and that adds to the anxiety I already have because of my heart not working correctly and my brain’s conviction that I am dying.

That said, it’s a holiday, so I’m just going to have to Xanax my way through it and try to have fun. Fortunately I am wearing an outfit I made for today, so at least I look good.

We’ll Call It “Busy Monday”

In between all the fashion, sewing, drawing and such, Artful Blasphemy is also always dealing with a chronic condition–Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). There are a myriad of co-morbidities (conditions that appear along with EDS, sometimes for reasons unknown beyond that they do) and also there is a certain amount of unpredictability, as collagen is present in 90% of the body’s structures, and if your collagen is flawed, then…shit happens.

After a year of increasingly debilitating arrhythmia, I had an Electrophysiology Study and Abalation on Friday, June 10th. Yeah, just. This involves the patient being sedated while a catheter is inserted into the big vein in the groin, through which leads are fed to the heart. The doctor watches for the offending electrical impulse and then burns it for 2-3 seconds to stop it. It is generally the only curative option for arrhythmia. Naturally, my particular form of Premature Ventricular Contraction was rare and interesting. Oh, how my heart (ha ha) plunges when a specialist uses those words. My hair is interesting, my clothes are interesting, please; let us leave the body to be dull, predictable, average.

The surgeon who did my procedure is one of two in the region who work with my interesting type, and he flies into El Paso from Austin once a month. When he spoke with me pre-op (as the cocktail of valium and benadryl did absolutely nothing to calm my ass down), he asked, “When do you notice the PVCs the most? What are you doing when they happen?” I said, “I have them all the time. They wake me up at night, they are really bad in the morning, they never go away.” He was surprised. He said that the use of general anesthesia often suppresses them which is why they use lighter sedation (something I was beyond, beyond terrified about for a week ahead of time). By then I had been assured by the kindest anesthesiologist I’ve ever had that I would feel nothing, no matter what they were doing, and even if I were awake enough to answer questions. He told us it would take not more than 2 hours, 2.5 at the outside.

It took 3.5 hours. Instead of going just through the vein in the groin, they also had to go through the artery as well, because they had to access it from both sides of my heart. He told us that the PVCs were constant, my heart was never beating in a normal rhythm. (That makes me feel a lot better about how badly I have felt the last several months, and how overwhelming so many things were becoming, like work, which became extremely stressful and not just because my heart was completely off kilter, but one feeds the other) Whereas normally, once the offending impulse is located, it takes 2-3 seconds of burning to eliminate, mine took over 30 seconds, from both sides. Which means I have an angry heart that needs some time to heal now.

I have never in my life met a surgeon who was as kind and warm as mine was. He dismissed nothing–no concern of mine was too small. I asked if he understood EDS, and he said he had researched it and would be sure to be as gentle as possible with my vessels, and would be using smaller wires to avoid stressing them. He hugged the team after the procedure, he knocked on my hospital room door and didn’t come in until invited, he called when he was running late to let us know and to apologize. He explained to my husband that I would have chest pain following the procedure because so much had to be burned, and that it would cause anxiety (NOT because I am a girl) because my brain would interpret that as a heart attack.

These days, hospitals don’t release you because you are recovered, they release you as soon as they suspect you won’t bleed out or anything. I’m told to expect it to be 10 days before I feel 100%. He said I would have periods of fatigue because my heart is inflamed and swollen from being burned. I cried all the way home from the hospital, mainly just out of response to big physical trauma, emotional depletion and exhaustion. There’s a series of gross, large holes in my groin, with a lot of bruising. I’m supposed to press down on it if I sneeze or anything. I’m recognizing that when I start to have that sensation that I am going to start crying, it’s time to stop whatever activity (reading, sitting on the couch, playing Match 3 games on my phone) and go take a nap.

Being forced to slow down is difficult, but if this did, as they believe, fix the problem, I may start to feel better than I’ve felt in about a year’s time. That would be nice, to say the least.

Jesus Take the Wheel: Medical Summer

When I last left you hanging about my fascinating medical crap, I was waiting on the results of the doppler study of my renal arteries.

So, the doppler came back saying that there were blood flow issues in BOTH renal arteries. I don’t mean to sound like a hysterical hysteric, but I was, shall we say, freaked out. Also, handling that stress is extra challenging when your heart isn’t behaving. My PCP ordered a CAT scan with dye to look at those vessels.

I’m going to point out here that while one might think that they would become accustomed to the routine of having IVs inserted and tests run while lying not-at-all-glamorously on a table in a cold room, one’s assumption would be wrong. I find myself having less and less tolerance and/or resilience for these experiences, so I was a tightly contained bundle of fury when the CT tech had to try twice to get the IV going. 

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten my PCP to write the referral to the out-of-town Electrophysiologist due to the scheduling issues with my cardiologist discussed in this post.  But, we realize that he doesn’t have all the records from Dr. Cardiologist, so we decide that I must return to Dr. Cardiologist’s practice and see someone, anyone, else to get those records.

Then the CT results come back showing NOTHING IS AT ALL WRONG with my renal arteries. I should be happy, right? Joyous. Yet, I am also pissed. Why did we spend all this money on all these other tests and freak me out for 3 weeks? New rule: I will INSIST on going straight to the test that be definitive instead of nickel and diming my sanity and bank account. Fuck this intermediary shit.

The next day, I see a different cardiologist who agrees that I need to see the Fancy-Pants Guy in El Paso and who says a few ominous things. “When you see the Fancy-Pants Guys, they will do one of two things; either try medication or do an Electrophysiology Study and Ablation, which is VERY invasive.” Me: “Oh.” Him: “There are a lot of side effects with the drugs.” Me: “Oh.” Him: “At this point you are not having episodes of Afib (Atrial Fibrillation, where the upper chambers of the heart tremble instead of beating and if it isn’t interrupted you die), YET.”

Oh, why, thanks for that “YET.” Thanks for that. Awesome.

So I see the Fancy Pants Guy, and he says the two things I hate hearing. “This is a very unusual PVC pattern.” and “This is very interesting.”

I wish I took a flask to Doctor’s appointments because that is where I would be needing to take a little nip of bourbon fortitude. 

Give my history with drugs, and the unusual nature of my arrhythmia, on June 09 I will be having the ablation. There are only two surgeons who deal with this sort of arrhythmia in the region, one in El Paso and one in Austin. El Paso dude will do it, but he will be consulting with Austin dude. “At least I’ll be unconscious”, I reassured myself. Oh, wait, no, they need you to be awake while they feed electrodes through a vessel in your groin to your heart. They have set up orders for a valium and two benadryl for that day. I laugh. I have quit Benadryl recently, but after 19 years of using it, it took up to six of them to knock me out. This should be fun.

It’s hard to relax even though I am off contract for the summer because a) big procedure coming up soon and b) heart is crazy weird and c) based on financials, I am having shoulder surgery on the 27th of June. Someday I’ll chat with you all about how broken the medical system is that “We’ve met our out of pocket for the year, so the main reason I want to do this now is that it won’t cost money.”

Artful Blasphemy really knows how to party.

 

 

No One Is Safe From Ineptitude

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Message on my phone last week:
Woman: Hi, this is so-and-so at Dr. Cardiologist’s office, calling to let you know we need to reschedule your appointment!
Me (calling back): I got a message that my appointment needs to be rescheduled?
Woman: Yes, Dr Cardiologist is no longer in the office except on Wednesday afternoons.
Me: I teach a class on Wednesday afternoons.
Woman: Oh.
Me: What am I supposed to do?
Woman: Well, she’s seeing patients in Alamogordo now, so….you could go there? There’s lots of appointments available.
Me: To Alamogordo?
Woman: Yes?
Me: Um, no, that doesn’t seem like a good strategy.
Woman: (softly) yeah….
Me: Tell them I want the referral to Dr. Fancy Specialist in El Paso, then.

Today:
Voicemail on my phone:
Different Woman: Hi, I understand you want a referral to Dr. Fancy Specialist in El Paso, but Dr. Cardiologist wants to see you again before she gives that referral. She’s only in the office on Wednesday afternoons now, so we may have to delay you being seen. But, it says here that you have an appointment on May 12, at 8:00 am, so just call us and let us know if you want that appointment.
Me (doing calculations in my head) But….if May 25 is a Wednesday, and 25 minus 7 is 18, and 18 minus 7 is 11….MAY 12 ISN’T A FUCKING WEDNESDAY. Who’s the EXPERT now? Huh? Me, that’s who, because I can COUNT.

_______

My phone rings at work:

Woman: Hi, uh, Genevieve?

Me: Guenevere

Woman: Oh, right, hi, this is (my PCP’s mother–whom I know) at Dr. My Friend & PCP’s office. Dr. My Friend & PCP wants you to come in about your x-ray results.

Me: Ultrasound

Woman: Oh, right, yes.

Me: (texting Dr. My Friend & PCP) Do I need to worry?

Dr.: Just want to follow-up. Want to get some more imaging, probably nothing.

Me: –Full On Panic— Oh, okay. Great. -headdesk-

 

When a Break isn’t a Break At All

Due to the public nature of blogging, I can’t divulge much about why this Spring Break was unbelievably welcome, except that work changed for me this year, and this semester began badly, such that there is less joy for me in my work. Right now. Things are fluid and can always change.

Still, the break hasn’t been of the sort I was hoping. Having a chronic condition means that there are always a few extra things on my plate (kind of like the extra 15 lbs on my belly, hips and thighs) that weigh me down. Cutting down on the heart medication did not seem to do the trick, resulting in me being temporarily assigned to a specific portion of Hell in which one has to use the restroom in an emergency way at Walmart, not once but twice.

So, on my own, I stopped the medication to see if I can re-balance my system. Of course this is difficult because the above-mentioned tour of Hell resulted in frantically dry swallowing tiny green pills so it will be awhile before things get straightened out. Also, I am back to waking up at 3:00 am with my heart doing the Watusi and feeling panicked. I had not realized how blessedly free I had been from that until it started back up.

The trip to Walmart was Monday morning. Monday afternoon we realized that the dog, Trixie Belden (the mermaid manatee pit bull), was not keeping any food down and hadn’t eaten anything since around Thursday. Off to the vet as walk-ins. We were not able to see our regular vet, and while the one we did see was perfectly fine, well, we walked out with the knowledge that her liver enzymes were off the charts and we were to give her a ton of expensive medication and then return for an expensive ultrasound that might confirm what we are guessing, which is that we were not able to contain the cancer to her leg as we had hoped when we had it amputated last November.

Despite expensive medicine, the dog has pretty much refused most liquid (with maybe a few ounces of chicken broth, which is sitting all over our house in bowls with humans saying artificially brightly, “Hey! Hey! Do you want some of this? Mmmm, it looks delicious!”) and all food except some Cheezits last night. Oddly. We feel, at this point, that we need to follow her lead and support her but stop intervening beyond pain medication and lots of love.

Not easy. She doesn’t seem to be in pain, but she doesn’t want anything. She may be my last dog, and like many people with chronic pain conditions, she is a big part of my emotional health. It’s extremely hard to let go, even though I believe I am doing the right thing by keeping her home and not throwing money at expensive tests that only hurt and scare her. The end result would be the same; if it’s cancer, we would go the Dog Hospice route, so throwing money at it is pointless.

Going back to work Monday and facing a million inquiries as to the quality of my Spring Break will not be fun–and I will still be longing for a break, which will now be six weeks away, with one tech week for a huge show looming large.