Sunday, September 28, 2014

How does our garden grow?

It grows weedy and overgrown, for the most part. But it's our yard, and I know you all want to see it.

Finally, I've got the yard pictures done. I'm not sure that they're in completely the right order but they're all annotated, I think. So here you go - there's a lot of them so they're after the jump.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Conference

I'm still working on the yard/garden post but I was at a conference this weekend and didn't do any work on it. I figured you'd want to know about the conference so I'm updating you on that right now.

This conference was held by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, which is a volunteer-led organization dedicated to people with metastatic breast cancer. This year's conference was held in Chapel Hill, NC so I was there for the weekend.

The conference runs for two days and although I'd planned to go to both days, I didn't make it. I had rented a car and locked my keys in the trunk of the car. I called the rental car company and they sent someone out to unlock the car but it turns out that they still make cars that have no internal trunk release and we couldn't get the trunk open. By the time we figured all that out, the conference was over so I ended up going to the airport early. It was a very long, very boring day.

Fortunately, Saturday's sessions were interesting. There was a talk on molecular genetics that I really enjoyed. It wasn't very detailed but it gave a good overview of the current science and research trends.

The most unforgettable session was the one on pain and sexuality. I expected this to be a session about how to adapt sexuality to the pain but it wasn't that at all. It turns out the speaker is a leading researcher in the area and so the talk was more of how she got the knowledge she did. In all that meandering, I learned a few things:

  • When men have sexual problems, it's often considered to be a physical problem but when women do, it's often considered psychological.
  • Before addressing sexual pain, the cause of the pain - nerves, skin, or muscle - must be determined.
  • Neuropathy can occur in the genital area in the same way as it does in the hands and feet because the nerves are the same size. THIS BLEW MY MIND.
  • Any treatment that can affect the mouth can affect the genitals in the same way because the tissues are structured the same way and are both mucous membranes (she had pictures to emphasize this point). 
  • If the area isn't used, the muscles can atrophy and cause pain, just like they would anywhere else.
  • Dilators don't help all that much; a better solution is apparently a modified Hodge pessary kept in at night.
  • If the skin has a rash or is very delicate use Crisco shortening(!!) to protect it. Crisco can also be used with the pessary and in place of Replens. It works because it doesn't contain harsh chemicals and it doesn't come off easily.
The session ended up being quite funny and informative. I'm happy that I went just for that because it really was informative. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bit of this and that

I'm still working on the pictures of our yard but I've been lazy and haven't finished annotating them all. There are over 150 of them, after all, which is more than even red carpet posts used to have.

I was out weeding in the yard today. I spent about three hours out there and I pulled up around 100 big dandelions and 50 or so baby-sized ones in a 250 sq ft area. There's at least double that area to go but those areas don't have quite so many of these dandelions. I knew the lawn was full of weeds but I didn't realize just how bad it is. I'm trying to get them pulled so that I can rake the lawn to get the growing bittercress and veronica out before reseeding the yard.

Gozer hasn't been feeling terribly well lately. She was on antibiotics for a hotspot which made her vomit. After she went off them, she was constipated for a few days and then yesterday she started having diarrhea. Poor girl. She had diarrhea again today and we're hoping that her system will settle down. We're hesitant to take her to the vet because we don't want them to give her pills and we figure that we can help her with diet. She's already getting half squash for food and if she still has problems tomorrow, we'l give her rice instead of kibbles for the other half.

Well, Ian will give her rice for food; I'm heading to Chapel Hill, North Carolina this weekend for a conference. I'm nervous about going because I don't think many of my friends are going and because Chapel Hill is near Raleigh and that area holds some memories for me. I'm hoping that it'll be a fun weekend and if it turns out to be lame, well, I won't be there that long.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Gozer in the yard

I took a bunch of pictures of our yard and the plants in it yesterday. It was a lovely sunny day so I got some good pictures for you. However, it's going to take another day or so to get the pictures in the right order and commented and stuff so in the meantime, I thought I'd show you some pictures of Gozer, aka Miss Flufflybutt.

Hi mom!

Something smells good over here.

What could have been in this spot?

That smells really, really good...

...it'll make me smell good, too!!

I am look good, I smell good, and I'm feeling fine. Off I go!

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!