Sunday, August 24, 2014

A lot about not very much

There's been a whole lot of not much going on around here. I've been spending time outside in the yard and I've finally started working on the dandelions that have grown to monstrous proportions. Seriously, some of those things, especially around our vegetable garden, are huge! Clearly whatever soil we're giving the vegetables is helping the dandelions.

The leaves are up to a foot long and the root is up to one inch in diameter; the leafmass is almost too big for me to hold when I try to rip them out. I'm not actually able to get the full length of some of the roots out and I know that I'll have to do some serious digging when the leaves grow back. I don't care about that right now; just getting the leaves and flowers out is enough for me right now.

One of the less pleasant parts about clearing out these giant dandelions is that we have an unusual variety of ants in the area. They're called citronella ants and they're named for the smell they give off when they're crushed - it's described as a pleasant lemon scent in places but we think it's more of a cloying, chemical, citronella scent. These ants apparently farm root aphids (aphids that eat roots like dandelions and potatoes but not carrots or radishes for some reason) and mealybugs and their territory extends from the vegetable garden to the fruit trees. Anyways, when I pull out the dandelions in that area I invariably crush some of those ants and the smell just reeks. Blech. I don't think it repels mosquitoes, either.

We'd seen these ants a while ago carrying white things around and we assumed that they were carrying eggs. A bit of research showed that no, those are aphids or mealybugs, and they're moving them so that the aphids eat more yummy roots (and mealybugs eat more yummy whatever) so that the ants can eat the yummy honeydew that the aphids and mealy bugs produce.
It is kind of neat that there are more than one species of ant that farms their food and that they do it in such different places.

I really have been meaning to take pictures of our yard but I've been waiting for good light. If the light isn't good soon I'm afraid that you'll get pictures of a bunch of dead flowers, which are pretty in their own way. Also, our contractor neighbour is mad at me for talking to his employee about the way he was encroaching on our property while parking the truck and then for talking to himself in front of that same employee about parking the truck and trailer in front of the fire hydrant. He also thought that I was stalking him or his employee because I spoke to his employee that one time.

All of that is sort of hilarious in the way that neighbourly disputes often are, but the thing that isn't funny is that the neighbour didn't approach me to talk to me about the problem. Instead, he talked to Ian because this neighbour "doesn't talk to women". He said all sorts of awful, misogynist things to Ian, including telling Ian to control his woman. As if that's even possible!

I did apologize via email for speaking to the neighbour's employee directly and for talking to him about an issue in front of the employee, because underneath all that bluster and completely offensive language I understand that it's important to him to appear to be in control and that my actions caused him to lose face in front of his employees. And it's really no big deal to talk to him directly and privately if I have a concern, although apparently it's much too much to ask that he afford me the same courtesy.

Anyways, the point of that diversion is that because this neighbour thought I was stalking him or his employee, I don't want him to think that I'm stalking him by taking photos of the property. Of course we're also getting quotes for work on our driveway and they're taking all sorts of photos, but that's a bit different. As I write this, it occurs to me that it would be a good idea to take photos so that we have some "before" pictures of the areas that will be changed.

Speaking of getting work done, this neighbour has repeatedly asked us to ask him for a quote before we hire anyone and has been mad when we haven't done that. However, after this whole kerfuffle there's no way I'll do business with him. I can't choose my neighbour but I can choose who I hire, and I choose not to hire people who express themselves in misogynist ways. Even if he was awesome at doing stuff (which he isn't; some of the work we need to have done is fixing work he did for us before), I wouldn't hire him just on principle. I know that this decision won't improve the relationship between the households much (and that he might end up doing petty things like encouraging his guests to flick cigarette butts into our yard as a result), but I'm willing to take that risk.

Hopefully I'll get to take some photos for you this week. We really do have a nice yard even if it is a little overgrown and unbalanced and full of weeds. I'd like to show it to you.

Huh. I sure wrote a lot for not much going on, didn't I? It just goes to show that I can talk a lot about anything :)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Transition finished!

I think the painkiller transition is finally over. We've found the right level of the new painkiller and although I occasionally have twinges in my sternum (which may be related to Gozer jumping on me), I'm not experiencing any real pain.

I've noticed some changes since I've switched painkillers, mostly related to sweating. I know this might be TMI but it's part of the way painkillers affect me. Before, my entire body would sweat. Seriously - my fingers and arms and legs and even my toes would sweat, and I developed little bumps around my eyes from sweat. Because I sweated so much, I drank a lot of water but didn't pee as much as you might think.

All that has changed: I now sweat only in the more normal places - like under my arms and on my scalp - and I pee way more often. My sweat also smells different to me; before, it didn't have much smell but now it smells the way it did before I ever had cancer. So that's a good thing, I guess.

I'm also finding that I enjoy my baths less. I loved taking baths and would take several each day... which, it turns out, wasn't a good thing. A hot bath increases the amount of painkiller I absorbed and then once the bath was done I'd experience withdrawal symptoms (like increased sweating). In other words, I was abusing my painkiller patches. I had no idea that I'd been doing this until I went to have a bath and it just didn't feel the same. I was ashamed once I realized what I'd been doing, and that shame was probably made worse by the fact that I was mildly depressed. At least I'm off the patches now and it's not possible for me to unknowingly misuse my pills.

The mild depression is gone now. My psychologist is away until the end of this next week so I wasn't able to make an appointment to see her. If I'd been feeling worse I'd have asked to see another psychologist in the clinic but I figured I wasn't doing too badly. I'm feeling much more emotionally even and am generally happy now so I think I'll be ok.

I'm really happy that the transition is over. I like that I'm feeling more like a normal person with the pills than I felt with the patches... but mostly I like that the transition is over.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Update on me and Gozer

I'm feeling a bit better now although my digestive system is still not quite right. At least I'm not at the point where my belly and gut are so distended that I can't wear anything constrictive, which is where I was in my last post. I'm also feeling less depressed although I'm still somewhat lethargic.

I haven't called my psychologist yet because I keep wishing that I could just fix this mild depression myself since I have the tools to do it. However, the fact that all of this is related to the change in painkiller medication means that I don't have much control over it. I'll call her tomorrow and set up an appointment.

In other news, Gozer saw her dermatologist last week. The dermatologist was happy to see Gozer looking good and scratching and licking less. We think the allergy shots are helping but we won't know for sure one way or another until Fall. Gozer still has yeast problems so for two weeks she'll receive her anti-yeast pills every day instead of two consecutive days each week. As well, the dermatologist gave us a medicated shampoo that we're to use one to three times a week; on the days that Gozer gets a bath, we're to wash all of her bedding, blankets, leash, and collars.

I also have to keep track of Gozer's itchiness each day on a scale of 1-10 (1 = least itchy, 10 = crazy itchy) and email the results (along with her regular calendar of pills and appointments) to the dermatologist each month. Finally, we decided that we're going to wait until the Fall to change her diet to deal with her food allergies, mainly because we want to give the allergy shots more time to work and make a difference and to get her yeast problems under control.

Gozer doesn't much like getting bathed, especially since this shampoo has to sit for 5-10 minutes before it's rinsed off. She's more resigned to the process than she used to be, although it's difficult to get her into the bathroom where she gets a bath. However, we've discovered that she love love love loves carrots so we grate some up for her and feed her the grated bits as a treat and that keeps her happy.

Oh, and it turns out that she knows the command for "Speak". We had no idea!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A little TMI whine

I've been having to take percocet to deal with the pain because the amount of the new painkiller wasn't enough. I talked to my family doctor's office today and my doctor is going to increase the painkiller amount. 

In the meantime, I'm having to deal with a common side effect of these drugs: constipation. Some (Ian) might say that I'm full of it (ha ha). I know this is a bit of TMI but it's (unfortunately) a fact of life with this stuff. Everything had been going so well for so long that I kind of forgot that I have to make sure that things stay going well. 

I've taken some dulcolax and it'll help eventually right now I'm quite uncomfortable. If this goes on for much longer I'm going to be very heartburny which can be unpleasant for me and anyone I talk to. Gum can only cover up so much, you know? 

Sigh. I'm whining, I know, but I figure that it's important to talk about the stuff that isn't so pleasant, too.

I've mentioned before that I've been experiencing some mild depression with this transition and since it's still going on (it's mild, but it's there) I'm thinking that it would be a good idea for me to see my psychologist. I know I have the tools to deal with all this but I'd feel better if I saw her.

I love not using the patches but I'm not in love with this transition. I'll be very happy once the amount of painkiller is stabilized and I'm back to being my regular happy self.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Regular oncologist appointment

Yesterday was my regular oncology appointment.

My CA 15-3 tumour marker from three months ago was at 43, which is higher than it's been in years but only slightly more than the previous two values of 39 and 40. Since the rest of my bloodwork yesterday was awesome and shows no problems, we agreed that there's no reason to be concerned about the tumour marker value.

It turns out that August will be scan time so I have the bone scan on August 5 and the CT scan on August 18. I'll get the results when I see my oncologist again in October unless there's a reason to be concerned - which we don't expect will happen.

In painkiller transition news, I'm doing ok. I'm definitely sweating less (which my oncologist noticed), and I'm feeling less depressed and lethargic now. I've still got some pain but it's not too bad so I think the worst of this transition is over.

EDIT: I was looking back through my tumour markers and the value three months ago was 32, down from 40 and 39 the three and six months prior to that, so it appears that the values are still oscillating. I'd checked because I was curious about when it had last been at or above 43 and when I discovered that it hadn't been that high since 2007 I was feeling a tiny bit worried. I was concerned that if the marker was starting to creep up, my years of stability might be coming to an end. Now that I know that the last value was 32, that tiny bit of worry is gone.

For fun, here's my current tumour marker graph:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Changing pain medication

I didn't realize that it had been a month since I last posted here. Clearly there's not much going on in my life these days.

One change is that I saw my family doctor last week so that he could see how I was doing and I asked to change pain medication. I'd been wearing the fentanyl patches for some number of years and lately especially I've been getting a heat rash - or prickly heat - under the patches. This happens when sweat has nowhere to go so it goes back into the skin, causing the sweat glands to be blocked and thus causing the rash. The rashes have been getting worse since the brand of generic patch changed but it was happening before that just because I sweat so much.

My family doctor agreed to put me on OxyNeo at about 3/4 the equivalent dose to my patch dose. I have no idea how much of the patch dose I was getting - it won't all go through the sweat or rash, so I don't know if I was getting 100% of the dose. I took the patches off and started taking the new pain medication on Thursday night.

It turns out that I was getting more than 75% of the dose so over the last few days I've been going through some mild withdrawal symptoms. The biggest symptom I had was what I call "woogly back" or Restless Leg Syndrome in my back (apparently it happens, although it's rare). I managed to deal with most of this with percocet in the first couple of days, to make the reduction in painkiller more tapered, and clonazepam in the days afterwards. I've also been experiencing some mild depression and lethargy.

Today was the first day that I didn't have woogles or need to take the clonazepam, and I discovered that this painkiller level isn't enough to deal with my pain. Starting this afternoon, the pain started. It isn't a a stabbing pain, but a light twingy, squeezy pain. Sigh.

So although I was really, really trying to make this level of painkiller work by not supplementing it with anything else, I'm not going to fool around with pain - once pain starts, it's harder to control so it's better to get ahead of it. I called the doctor earlier today, before the pain started, to let him know about the mild withdrawal and that I was doing ok so far but I'll have to call in the next couple of days once I've got the pain under control to see just how much I need to bump up the amount of painkiller.

On the bright side, I'm sweating less and I now definitely know that I still need the painkiller, even though the sternum is healing. I'll be very happy to leave this transition period with its woogles and lethargy and depression behind, however. This hasn't been an enjoyable few days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Still working on the garden

I should take pictures of the garden but I'm going to wait until I'm done planting. I've planted most of the climbing plants now but I still need to plant the hen and chicks (I forgot about them before) and I may have purchased a couple more coneflower plants in shades of red today when I went to get more soil. I love purple coneflowers but I thought the red ones would add a bit more variety.

I've got one of those %&%)@! canker sores again. It's on the left side (of course), in my lower jaw (of course), where the gum meets the cheek (of course) and it's currently about 8mm in diameter. By the looks of things, there's another one forming just to the left of the center along my lower mouth. I wouldn't be surprised if the current one merged with the new one. I'm rinsing with salt water but it isn't helping much. Anbesol (or whatever it's called) does help a bit and I'm putting that stuff on before bed so I won't be woken up by the pain. Because oh my goodness it hurts. Maybe it's time to start brushing with Biotene toothpaste, which is supposed to help with them.

Ian's out tonight and I'm watching this documentary on UFOs and aliens (and the possibility of a coverup). All these people - some of them military - are talking about crafts they've seen and aliens they've seen. The narrator says that people don't want to experience a UFO or alien encounter but I think that would be awesome. Of course there's life out there somewhere although I don't know if (or why) they would be here on our planet. Anyways, if aliens really existed and visited, I'd love to meet them.

Until that day happens, I've got a garden to work on. And a canker sore to heal somehow.