Thursday, June 22, 2017

An eventful Monday

I'm sure you all were wondering why I didn't post an update with my endoscopy results since I was supposed to be seeing that doctor for the follow-up visit on Monday June 19. As it happened, I didn't see the gastroenterologist that day because I needed to see my optometrist.

A couple of weeks ago, tree-like floaters suddenly appeared in my right eye. The tree structure collapsed and became much smaller over the course of the day and then disappeared. Since I had no other visual disturbances I figured that my eyes were ok. Then last Friday, a new (and rather annoying) floater that looked like a string curved into a partial circle appeared in my right eye. Later that evening I briefly saw some arcs of light in that eye when I moved my eyes around.

Since my vision was otherwise unaffected (there were no shadows, blurring, or decreasing vision in any way), there was only the one floater and not a bunch of them and it didn't block my vision (even if it was crazy annoying), and the arcs of light were connected to moving my eyes and they stopped, I didn't think I needed to go to an emergency room but would call my optometrist on Monday. Had any of those other things been going on  - or if any of them had started - I would have seen someone immediately because they're symptoms of retinal detachment.

I did call my optometrist's office on Monday morning and they squeezed me in to see the other optometrist in the office. I said I was supposed to go to another appointment and they told me that if I didn't go into their office that I needed to see my family doctor today and get a referral to an ophthalmologist today. I ended up rescheduling my gastroenterologist appointment for August 3 and going in to see the optometrist.

There, my pupils were dilated and my retinas examined. The big concern, and the reason they wanted me examined right away, was the possibility that my retina was detaching. Fortunately, that's not what is happening. Instead, I have posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD, which happens when the jelly-like fluid in the eye (the vitreous) detaches from the retina. It's normal and happens in older eyes. The big risk is that it could make the retina detach, too, so if I see a sudden increase in the number of floaters or any kind of shadow over my vision, I'm to see the optometrist or go to the emergency room immediately. Otherwise I'll see the optometrist in August for a follow-up.

Was I foolish to not head to the ER right away? Maybe. But I was fairly certain that I wasn't experiencing a retinal detachment as those symptoms are very well known and I didn't have them. I wouldn't have waited longer than a couple of days before seeing someone but I figured that waiting the extra days (in the absence of any new symptoms) would be all right.

And as it happens, I got the endoscopy results from my oncologist when I saw her on June 9. I didn't talk about those results as well because the gastroenterologist will need to interpret the results. Since I won't see him for another six weeks, I can tell you that the endoscopy showed....

Nothing. There's no ulcer. There's no damage. Te biopsies were normal. I am not gluten-intolerant. I do not have an H. pylori infection.

There's nothing wrong at all with my stomach. Why does it hurt sometimes? I have no idea. Maybe it's all in my head?

Friday, June 09, 2017

A fabulous scan and Gozer

I saw my oncologist this morning to get the results from last week's bone scan. The results are fantastic! The spot we radiated is less active meaning that the radiation therapy worked!!! There are also no new spots of different activity so the cancer is under control. I'll be staying on the current treatment - femara or letrozole - because it seems to be working to keep the cancer under control. Yippee!!!

This great news has capped off a difficult few days. On Wednesday evening, Gozer became very sick. She'd eaten bunny poop in the backyard in the early afternoon and some other kind of delicious-to-her poop on our walk through the woods. After dinner she began vomiting (which is the grossest thing I've ever smelled because of the aforementioned poop). She looked dopey and her head was rocking back and forth; the second time she vomited she didn't move away like she normally does. And then we saw that she couldn't walk.

I freaked out a bit, as I will do, and called the emergency vet. I described the symptoms and they said that if I was worried I should bring Gozer in. So we did.

When we got there, she vomited again in the lobby so they took us into one of the exam rooms. (They do have a wonderful spray that neutralizes even the worst smells, which made the lobby bearable for the other people there). In the room, I sat on the floor and gozer sat beside me; when she's got up, there was a puddle of pee where she'd been sitting. She didn't know she'd peed. She tried walking around but was wobbly on her feet and her feet kept spreading out under her.

I was so scared. I thought Gozer had ingested a poison and was going to die.

It turns out that she did ingest a poison of sorts. Based on her behaviour, the vet said she'd ingested marijuana. There's no blood or urine test that can tell for sure that this was the cause but her behaviour was definitely consistent with marijuana ingestion. There's nothing that can really be done for it, either; the dog has to ride it out.

The vet did give Gozer an anti-emetic and liquid charcoal and Gozer didn't vomit again. She did get very sleepy and slept hard throughout the night.

We ended up spending about two hours at the emergency vet's office, and when we came home around 11pm we stayed up with her for about 35 minutes before taking her out for a short walk.

It took about 24 hours for Gozer to return to normal and she's completely fine now. I did get quite a scare (even though I overreacted a bit) but I'm feeling better now, too.

We don't know exactly where she found the marijuana, but it was either thrown into our yard or it was in or near the poop she ate. I don't object to marijuana, as a rule; I know people who take it and I don't much care. But if you do take it, please dispose of everything properly and keep it out of reach of your pets. Don't make a pet owner go through what we did.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Bone scan day

It's been long enough since the radiation treatment that any we should be able to tell whether or not the treatment actually worked. The way to do that is via a bone scan, which I had this morning.

The scan is in two parts: the injection of a radioactive tracer that settles in the bones and is excreted through the urine, and the scan itself, where a machine detects how much of the tracer has been absorbed into each part of each bone. Any areas where there's either additional or less tracer are areas of interest. Sometimes those areas are non-cancer related (for example, the scan picks up my arthritis and the degeneration I have in my lower back) but we'll be paying special attention to the sternum.

I lie flat on my back on a table for the scan. This time they did three passes of the scanner: one from head to toe parallel to me and directly above and below me, one at about a 30 degree angle to my chest, and one that spiraled around my chest. The actual scan took about 45 minutes and then I was done!

I see my oncologist for the results in a week, on June 9. I expect the results to be good.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

That was the endoscopy

This afternoon I had the endoscopy to see what shape my stomach is in. I think it went well.

Ian drove me there and back because I was sedated and I wasn't allowed to drive myself or take a taxi. He took Gozer for a walk while he was waiting for me.

When I got there, I had to wait a bit for them to call me in but once I was called into the back things went quickly. They had me change out of my long-sleeved top into a gown. The nurse came back, asked me a bunch of questions, and put a blood pressure cuff on me.

And then the nurse tried to start an IV for the sedative. For whatever reason she wanted to use my hand, and I hadn't been allowed to eat or drink anything for over four hours before so I was slightly dehydrated, and my veins are pretty crappy as it is. The IV attempt did not go well and I'm going to be left with a giant bruise.

She decided that she wasn't going to try again and that she'd leave my IV for the endoscopy nurse. That nurse did a much better job with the IV: she got it on the first try and it didn't hurt quite so much. Putting an IV into the hand is always going to hurt a little.

Then another nurse confirmed my name and age. The doctor sprayed a banana-flavoured numbing agent on my throat, gave me a thing to protect my teeth, and started injecting the sedative.

And then I woke up. I remember absolutely nothing of the procedure and I'm ok with that.

I have a followup appointment for June 19, I think. I'm not sure... I was pretty woozy when the nurse told me but it's written on a card. I slept for about half of the drive and then for about an hour after I got home. I'm still pretty tired but feeling ok.

Hopefully the doctor will have got some good biopsies and will have some information for me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gastroenterologist appointment

Have I mentioned my stomach issues? I don't remember. Apologies if I'm repeating myself.

A bit of background: I have degeneration in my lower back at L4-L5 and L5-S1 which causes pain and the pain was worse after my ovaries came out in 2007. To deal with that pain, I took Celebrex (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID) starting in late 2007. I didn't really take it properly because I didn't always take it with food; taking it with food is strongly recommended because NSAIDs can cause stomach problems. However, my stomach was fine. Then in late 2014 I heard about a new painkiller that would help with headaches (I grind my teeth and get headaches from that even though I wear a night guard). This new amazing painkiller was Naproxen (Aleve) and wow did it work. It worked faster and better than Tylenol and so I took it occasionally.

What I didn't realize is that Naproxen is also an NSAID and, like Celebrex, can cause stomach problems. In the summer of 2015 I started experiencing severe stomach pain almost certainly due to the combination of NSAIDs. The pain was so bad that I couldn't stand up straight and I almost never wanted to eat. I was taken off of the Celebrex and stopped taking the Naproxen... but the damage was definitely done.

My family doctor put me on 60mg of Dexilant per day plus Gaviscon and the combination worked to reduce the stomach pain. I still had occasional problems but I could stand up straight and eat. I also started to gain weight; I put on over 20 pounds.

Then early this year I started experiencing a new pain in my stomach. My family doctor doubled the Dexilant dose and referred me to a gastroenterologist in Oakville.

The gastroenterologist said that my stomach problems are probably related to too much acid there and that my Dexilant dose is very high. I have no idea how to reduce the acid level (I'm sure we'll deal with that later) but he wants to try to reduce the Dexilant; apparently it can be increased or decreased without any problems or side effects which is great. Before we do anything, though, he wants to see my stomach so I'm scheduled to go in for an endoscopy on the afternoon of May 3. He'll look around, take some samples (ie biopsy a few areas) and test me for H. pylori.

He also said that my recent weight gain may be related to my other painkillers, which are known to slow down the intestines, and that reducing the amount I take may make it easier for me to lose weight. (In addition to some dietary and exercise changes, of course!)

Speaking of reducing that painkiller, my family doctor is apparently going to be away for six or eight weeks starting in May. There's no way that I will do this kind of reduction without his supervision or the supervision of a doctor to whom I'm referred so that will wait until summer. I'm quite sure I'll be fine.

In other news, getting to yesterday's appointment was a bit of a production. The original plan was for me to take Gozer to Ian's parent's house so that they could visit with her, but neither they nor Gozer were feeling well. Gozer was groomed on Monday and had mild diarrhea afterwards. She's getting better but I didn't want to impose Gozer (and the possibility of an emergency diarrhea walk) on people who weren't feeling well. Also, I didn't think it was a good idea to take Gozer on a long drive, so the new plan was to take her to Ian's work.

Then I found out that a good friend of mine went into residential hospice yesterday. She's been receiving palliative care at home for about a year but has declined significantly in the last few weeks; she has metastatic breast cancer with brain tumours and she's out of treatments for them. The tumours are growing and causing additional cognitive and physical difficulties and she could no longer be cared for in her own home. At this point it isn't known if she'll be able to receive visitors.

I was and am devastated to hear this. She's lasted an incredibly long time: she wanted to see her kids start school last September and she did! Plus she was here another six months or so! But she's close to the end now and I'm grieving... there are many, many tears and that tight feeling in my chest that makes me want to curl into a ball in a dark corner. I told Ian what was happening and we decided that since I was crying so much and was so weepy, it wasn't safe for me to drive to Oakville. Driving while crying really isn't safe for me.

So instead of taking Gozer to Ian's work so that she didn't have to do a long car ride, the new new plan was that Ian came home and the three of us drove to and from the appointment. Fortunately, Gozer was just fine during the drives and we didn't have to stop for any emergencies. Ian took her for a nice long walk during my appointment and she's doing better.

What a day, huh? I'll keep you posted with what happens with all my upcoming appointments and stuff.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Radiation oncologist appointment

I saw my radiation oncologist this morning for a brief follow-up. She was slightly less surprised than my regular oncologist that my skin over the irradiated area was still pristine because the doses weren't given to a broad area but were very small and came from multiple angles.

We talked about the fatigue I'm still experiencing slightly and she said it was normal and would get better. It's not that bad but I definitely need a nap every day - especially if I do anything outside the house. I can live with that - honestly, although I know it was better before radiation, I'm not sure it was that much better - but a little less fatigue would be nice.

She asked about pain, and I'm really not experiencing any now, which means that either I have no pain or it's very well-controlled with my painkillers. I told her that I was thinking of waiting until summer - or at least until this fatigue is over - and then tapering down my painkiller. I suspect that I truly have no pain because the radiation should have taken care of whatever was there and that I don't need this level of painkiller. Reducing the painkiller is going to be a giant production to; a couple of years ago I changed painkillers and it was a very difficult experience. I don't know why I wanted to wait so long to do it except that I'm not looking forward to that particular experience.

She said it was better to do the taper sooner rather than later, and the reason she gave for it is that if I'm taking painkillers to deal with pain, I won't become addicted to them but if there's no pain then I'll become addicted. I'm not quite sure what she means by "addicted"... I don't crave them or get high from them (not that I could, anyways; painkillers given for cancer pain fix the pain first and get the person high second, and at this point I've been taking them so long that my brain has rewired for them), and that's not going to change.

In my case, my biggest issue is that I'm dependent on the painkillers so that when I miss a dose, I start going through withdrawal symptoms. It's those withdrawal symptoms that make the tapering down difficult. I will call my family doctor sooner rather than later (or the summer) and get the process started. I think I've read about things that can help this process be less uncomfortable and maybe they'll work for me.

Other than that, she's going to see me again in four months to see how I'm doing. Overall, she's very pleased with how things are going, so I am too!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Back to normal?

I've been taking it easy and feeling pretty good lately. I haven't felt as tired as before abd I've been to the studio again. Yay! I'm still working on my earrings and I haven't given up even though it got difficult at one point. So that's something, right? I did post a picture of the earrings in progress over on my @gozermom Instagram page (Gozer has her own @gozerdog page. I know, I'm worse than some parents).

It's good that I'm feeling​better because spring is coming and there's lots to do in the yard!

I was supposed to see my radiation oncologist last week but she was away so my appointment will now be next Tuesday, April 4.

Anyways, theres not much going on but I thought you'd want to know that things are pretty well back to normal.