Monday, February 08, 2016

Ghostbusters and The Dark Crystal

Cineplex is hosting their annual The Great Digital Film Festival at select theaters across Canada, where they show a number of older movies in digital format. Part of this year's lineup includes Ghostbusters and The Dark Crystal, two movies we wanted to see. Therefore, this weekend we ended up seeing both movies in the theater.

Ghostbusters is one of Ian's favourite movies ever and we thought that it would be neat to see the movie in an actual theater. We were right :) The movie has held up fairly well because it looks more like a movie set in a particular time period than one that is unbearably dated. Some of the special effects are a bit dated and the music is obviously from that era but aside from those two points, it's still a pretty good movie.

It also turns out that I had never seen The Dark Crystal. I know what you're thinking - how could I have lived my life to this point and not seen it? I don't know the answer to that but it's fixed now. Since it was also playing as part of the festival, we figured that we might as well see it in the theater, too.

From a technical perspective, The Dark Crystal is an amazing movie. The puppetry is fantastic; it was clear that the puppeteers had really studied animal movements and reproduced them accurately, making the different characters look alive. For example, the way the Master settled his head on the pillow looked looked the same as when Gozer rests her head on something. The swamp scene where everything is moving slightly was also particularly realistic. The pacing of the story is slow but it fits the story and I didn't mind that at all.

The festival runs until February 11 and tickets are all no more than $6.99. If you're interested in any of the movies they're showing, why not see them in the theater?

Cineplex is also using selected theaters for other specialized purposes, including showing operas, ballet, and some Shakespearean plays on their big screens. Who knew you could get so much culture from the same place you can see crappy movies?

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Witness

This past weekend Ian and I played a new video game: The Witness by Jonathan Blow. It's a 3D open-world maze-like puzzle game that is set on an island composed of a variety of environments. When you start the game, it's as though you've been dropped into this other world and you have to figure out how things work on your own.

Because so much of what makes the game enjoyable is discovering these mechanics for yourself, I don't want to get too specific about the puzzle mechanics. I think I can give you a general overview, however.

Most of the puzzles are made up of some kind of grid with at least one start point and at least one end point. The goal for each puzzle is to trace a correct path (sometimes more than one correct path is possible) between a start and an end point, and every correct path is subject to constraints (ie conditions that must be met). Some of these constraints include avoiding a particular segment in the path, being required to use a particular segment in the path, using the path to divide one type of object from another, or using the path to keep objects of a certain type together. The way these constraints are combined and and defined creates new puzzle mechanics throughout the game.

As each new puzzle mechanic is introduced, the game does a pretty good job of teaching you how that particular mechanic works, all without giving verbal or written instructions. Although the constraints can be fairly easily defined, the puzzles themselves could be quite difficult. Quite often we used pen and paper to figure out how to solve the puzzles.

In addition to having great puzzles, this game is gorgeous. Each environment is beautifully designed and rendered and is a pleasure to look at and explore. Speaking of the environment, I can give you one hint: everything is specifically designed and placed and nothing is random.

We loved this game: really, really, really loved it. If you like solving maze-like puzzles, we highly recommend The Witness to you. Currently it's available for the PS4 and Windows.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Social media

A friend of mine had her Facebook account disabled because she wasn't using her real name (as an aside, while I understand the real name policy, sometimes it's a pain) so I followed her to Instagram, setting up an account there, because I didn't want to lose touch with her.

I'd never been on Instagram or spent much time there but once I got there I figured I should post some pictures and get involved, kind of. Pretty much all my pictures are of Gozer looking cute (which I think is all the time, although Ian says I see her through a mommy filter). I tell you, the first time I got likes from people I didn't know I really understood the appeal of social media. All I have to do is use hashtags that people follow and they look - and sometimes like - my photos. I can be part of a community.

Instagram isn't like Facebook, in that you don't have to know someone to like their photos or vice versa. Of course you can follow people, and they can follow you, but things don't have to work this way.

I realize that for almost everyone this is not a new concept but it was new for me. Odd, I know. I don't post a lot but I'm enjoying the thrill of connecting with people I don't know.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cancer news

Now for my cancer update. It's going great, honestly - my scans have all showed nothing new and my tumour markers have stayed pretty much steady. At my most recent oncology appointment this past Monday, my oncologist and I decided that I would see her every six months instead of every three just because everything is so stable. I'll see her next about two weeks after my scans in August, which will be around seven months or so instead of six but I think that will be fine. Of course if I notice anything unusual, I'll call for an appointment.

She said that my metastatic cancer is oligometastasis because just one organ (in this case one bone) is affected. They're starting to discover that people who have oligometastasis can receive curative treatment and live for many years after diagnosis.

I'm thrilled, of course! This is wonderful news. At the same time, I do feel sort of weird about it. I have a friend who is not doing well (they're talking about months instead of years left for her) and lots of other friends who also aren't doing well... along with a ton of other friends who have died. They're going through so much with treatments and whatnot and I'm just not going through all that. I feel like I don't fit in with people who have metastatic breast cancer because things are just going so well for me.

I've made a chart of my CA 15-3 tumour markers from the beginning; they're still oscillating in a fairly narrow range.

So there you have it; cancer-wise, things are awesome right now!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My eyes

Did I mention that I was seeing a new optometrist? My previous optometrist was fairly far away and was always, always running late. My new optometrist is much closer and is on time. Plus they do more tests there, including a visual field test and optical coherence tomography, a test that measures the retinal nerve fiber layer. I see my optometrist every six months in part because my prescription is so high.

One thing this optometrist has discovered is that my eye pressure (the technical term is intraocular pressure) is also high. On the automatic test, my eyes register a pressure of about 25 (12-22 is apparently normal), and on the manual test, my eyes register a pressure of about 22. My optometrist says that my eyes are deep-set and so they don't register properly on the automatic test, giving a higher-than-normal reading, but my eye pressure is still at the high end of normal during the manual test.

We've done the optical coherence tomography each of the three times I've been to this optometrist and the results have been unchanged in the year and a half. This is good: high eye pressure can mean glaucoma, but the retinal nerve fiber layer doesn't show any glaucoma. Therefore, my optometrist has diagnosed me with ocular hypertension (high eye pressure).

My optometrist and I talked it over and we've decided not to treat the ocular hypertension right now but to just watch it. I'll continue going in every six months and if the pressure gets any higher or the retinal nerve fiber layer shows any changes, we'll treat it then.

So that's two new things going on: my stomach issues (which flared up again last night and today) and this ocular hypertension. Lucky me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hello again

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I don't know why I haven't been writing here. Well, I was sick with stomach problems due to long-term Celebrex usage coupled with short-term Naproxen use. The Naproxen was a bad choice on my part but it worked so well to deal with pain and I'd been on the Celebrex for so long that I think I thought I was invulnerable to possible stomach damage. Stomach damage is, of course, a side effect of long-term Celebrex usage - it shows up in something like 25% of people who take Celebrex for a long time like I did.

So I had terrible stomach pain for quite some time. My family doctor put me on Dexilant, which helped somewhat, and later on Zantac, which helped a lot. Now my stomach feels all right most of the time - unless I eat too much or eat something too spicy.

After I went on Zantac, I somehow messed up my other medications and forgot to take my Cipralex (aka lexapro - an SSRI antidepressant). After maybe a month of not taking it, I started experiencing severe anxiety and depression. I had a hard time leaving the house because I became overwhelmed whenever there were people around. I found myself descending that spiral of depression, where I thought I was worthless and untalented and that every creative idea I had was pedestrian and uncreative and ugly.

It didn't help, either, that I was experiencing this terrible depression and anxiety just before the five-year anniversary date of my mom's suicide. I was a mess.

Fortunately, I went back on the antidepressant about a week before that anniversary date and started feeling better right away. It's taken a while to feel like myself again but I'm getting there now.

There's doctors appointments and whatnot to talk about - things are going well on that front, don't worry - but that'll be all for now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent doctor's appointments

I saw my oncologist yesterday for my quarterly visit. My CA 15-3 tumour marker for January and April is staying steady at 40 and 39, respectively, and the rest of my bloodwork looks good. I have my annual scans coming up in the next two weeks but we expect them to be fine.

In barely-related to cancer news, about two weeks ago I developed severe stomach pain. I couldn't stand up straight, I couldn't eat, and I was exhausted all the time. I went off the Celebrex I've been taking for seven or eight years and saw my family doctor about a week ago. He put me on Dexilant, which reduces the acid in my stomach, and it's helped: I can eat normally. I can also try going back on the Celebrex today although there's no guarantee that I'll be able to stay on it.

The reason this is tangentially related to cancer is that I've been taking the Celebrex to deal with the joint pain caused by the Femara I've also been taking for years and years as well as the lower back pain I have. Since I've gone off the Celebrex, that joint pain in my hips and shoulders and the pain in my back has returned. I have a hard time sleeping because of the pain. Percocet can help me get to sleep but I'll usually wake up when it wears off. Sigh.

I talked with my oncologist about this and we've agreed that if I can't stay on the Celebrex to try some non-drug techniques for the pain. She's recommended Chinese acupuncture (apparently that kind has been shown to have a beneficial effect beyond the placebo effect) and cardiovascular exercise. I'm still carrying extra weight (not eating for a few days appears to have made no difference) and I know I'm out of shape so I'll see if I can set up our exercise bike again. I don't know what I think about acupuncture but I figure that it's unlikely to do me harm so it's not a bad idea to try it. All I have to do is find a suitable practitioner.