Thursday, August 22, 2013

Oncologist and some stuff

I'd planned to write more about our trip but I wanted to include pictures and they haven't been processed yet. We took a couple of thousand photos on the trip and the task is a bit overwhelming so I haven't done it yet.

I saw my oncologist today. My CA 15-3 tumour marker at the end of May was 34 and at the beginning of August was 39, which is still within my normal range. Yay! My oncologist wants me to do regular bone and CT scans just to be sure that I'm still doing fine. She wants to do scans twice a year - which is fine with me - and my last scans were in December. I'll see her again for the results in a few weeks.

I wanted to say that the way I talked about being in the US stereotyped people as gun-loving nuts and cops as thugs. I didn't say that outright but I'm sorry to say that I did kind of have that view in my head when I wrote it. For the record, people in the US are people, and although there are people who own guns, not everyone has one. Moreover, while some cops everywhere may be thugs, the ones I'd encounter there are no more likely to be thugs than they would be anywhere else.

There are things going on in the US that I don't like, such as: the loss of women's reproductive rights in many states; the rampant racism in Florida and other places; the fact that the NSA has been electronically spying on Americans (and that Canada, being an ally, was involved); the increased militarization of US police forces; and the US drone strikes. Even though these are policy issues that have very little to do with the ordinary people in the US, my head got caught up in all these events and I transferred my feelings about them into paranoid stereotyping of the people in the country. My apologies.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Atlantic Canada road trip, part 1

We returned on Tuesday from a 12-day road trip to and from Atlantic Canada. I'd have mentioned that we were going away before we left but it didn't seem like a good idea to say to the world that we wouldn't be home. Not that so many people read this blog but we felt that it would be better not to take chances.

We decided to take our time driving there and back because we had Gozer with us and we weren't sure that she could handle being in the car for too long. Therefore, we limited our driving time to a maximum of six hours per day. We figured that even we had to make lots of long stops, we'd be on the road no longer than ten hours per day and with both of us driving, that would be no problem. As it turned out, Gozer is better in the car than we are! She could stay in the car for hours at a time but we didn't know that before we set out.

Today I'm going to talk only about the route we took and the three interesting challenges we faced but I'm not going to go into detail about what we saw or the things we visited. I'll save all that for the next post or two.

To make for a varied trip, we decided to drive through Quebec on our way there and through the US on the way back. I kind of feel weird about going through the US because of the number of guns and the police climate there. We were careful to stay near the speed limit or with the flow of traffic so that the police had no reason to look at us. Weird, I know, but there it is.

On the way there, we stopped in Gananoque, ON; then Levis, QC (a suburb of Quebec City); and on the third day we ended up in Fredericton, NB. After leaving Gananoque we encountered our first challenge: we'd left our laundry bag behind with the clothes we'd worn the day before. Although I called the hotel the next day, they haven't called me back to tell me they found it.

In Levis, we had our second challenge: I broke my glasses. The left temple snapped off of the front frame between the hinge and front frame and since the frames were acrylic they couldn't be fixed. I temporarily taped them together that night and the next day Ian got some Krazy Glue and strong tape. For the rest of the trip I rocked the hipster taped-up glasses look.

After Fredericton we made our way to Moncton, NB, where we stayed three nights while we explored the Bay of Fundy, Moncton, and PEI. On our first full day there, after spending time over at the Bay of Fundy, we developed a flat tire - our third challenge. We did buy the roadside assistance but it would have taken an hour to and hour and a half to get a tow truck to us and we were tired and hungry after overdoing it that day. So Ian successfully changed his very first flat tire :) This challenge took a lot of our time since we had to spend the next morning getting the old tire fixed; I'd wanted to swap cars but none were available. We had planned to go to PEI that day and we still managed to do that even though we didn't get to spend as much time as we'd hoped to spend there.

Fortunately, that was it for challenges and the rest of our trip was smooth sailing. Or driving. Once we finished up in and around Moncton, we headed to Halifax, NS for two nights so that we could explore the region around Halifax and the city itself. From there, it was homeward-bound through Portland, ME and Liverpool, NY.

I know that this sounds like a lot of traveling and driving but it turned out to be not too bad. Ian did most of the driving while I read or napped but I was ready and willing to drive whenever he was tired or migrainy. We stopped every couple of hours for a bathroom break and to stretch our legs. We managed to not exhaust ourselves by driving which meant we had lots of energy to spare when we were walking around looking at stuff. More on that next time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Me and my anti-depressant

It's been quite a while since I've posted here. True, nothing much has happened, but that hasn't stopped me from posting before.

I think part of it is that I originally started this blog to talk about living with cancer and, well, it's been seven years since that all started and I'm still alive and stable. I don't think about the cancer most days because it isn't part of my daily life. And I kind of feel like so much of my life isn't worth writing about, you know?

As it happens, I do have something to write about now. After taking 30mg/day of my antidepressant Cipralex for seven years, my family doctor has finally agreed to let me start tapering down on the antidepressant. I'll be reducing 5mg/day every six weeks until I can't handle it.

I've thought a lot about this and I wanted to approach this responsibly. I talked to my psychologist and she suggested that I monitor how I'm doing by rating my anxiety and depression out of a scale of 0-10 (0 is none and 10 is the worst possible) each day as well as counting the number of chores I don't do, social commitments I back out of, and sleep I get each day. Then each week I'll rate other specific questions about how I'm doing. This way, I can chart how I'm doing, and if I start not doing well then I can stop the taper.

Apparently I'm taking higher than the recommended maximum dose and my doctor wants me to at least go down the maximum recommended dose. If I need more than the maximum for this antidepressant, he'll switch me over to Wellbutrin.

There's part of me that would love to go all the way down to zero so that I don't need to take the antidepressants anymore. I don't know if that's possible since I've been on this one for so long. My psychologist said that my brain might not be able to go back to normal after being on this high dose for so long. If I can't go to zero, I can accept that; as much as I'd like to do that, I know it might not be in the cards for me.

So we'll see what happens. Let's hope this works!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's been a tough month

This last month has been tough. My friend Steph C's death left me devastated because it was so unexpected. It really was. Normally I have an idea about when someone is getting really close to the end because of the things that happen to them; the decline is there if I want to see it (and I almost always would rather bury my head in the sand), so the end, even if it happens quickly, is something I'm kind of expecting. Knowing that it's coming means I can sort of be ready when it happens; I'll still grieve, but it's a different kind of grief.

With Steph there was no decline at all. She had developed new mets, just like before, and was going for the liver biopsy to find out whether or not her tumour had changed. Apparently during the biopsy, Steph's hepatic artery burst and she died. About 1 in 10-12000 die because of the liver biopsy and there's just no way to prepare for that when it happens to someone you know. The kind of grief I felt was different than usual because I had to process the suddenness of the event. I imagine people whose loved ones are killed in accidents feel a similar type of grief - and of course that kind of grief is there when someone dies by suicide.

Compounding my grief over Steph was what would have been my mom's 65th birthday a few days later. Big grief events always seem to remind me of my mom and dad... it's like I feel the grief for them all over again. The grief for my mom and dad come up during different anniversary days. Some are more significant than others: my mom's 65th birthday would have been a major event even though now I don't know how things would have changed.

On top of all that was Father's Day. It's been five years since my dad died and I still miss him. I didn't do much for my dad for the day but I'd call him and we'd chat for a bit and I miss that.

So all of that grief and sadness all combined together to take me out for the last month. It's just been so overwhelming. I ended up seeing my psychologist early, which helped because I could talk it all out.

I also went to Steph's memorial service/celebration of life in St. Louis this past weekend. Going to that really helped because I was able to have some closure around her death. Being around so many other people who loved her and lost her was cathartic for me. I cried the whole time, of course, but I knew it was going to happen and I brought lots of tissue with me.

I think I'm feeling better now, or at least not quite so sad and devastated. I think next month is going to be much better.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

My friend is gone

My friend Stephanie C. died last night. I sent her a facebook message this morning, went over to the mets support board, and found out that she had died the night before. I'm shocked and so sad, and I know I'm not the only one.

She had posted just last week that scans showed some progression in her liver with a bunch of new tumours. They were biopsying the tumours to see if they had the same markers and she would have had the results at the end of this week. And then somehow, something went wrong and she died. It was sudden and unexpected, even though she was facing progression in her liver, because she was posting and had contacted people as late as Sunday. No one yet knows what happened.

Steph was a wonderful, caring, compassionate woman and I already miss her terribly. She was my co-admin on our support board and I loved working with her. She was funny and talkative and always welcomed people with a kind word. She was just so nice and such a centered person. She was so open and loving and saw the best in people. I admired her and strive to emulate her because she was such a good person - one of the best I know.

She leaves behind her family, her husband, her kitties, and many, many people - including me - who loved her so very much. She will be dearly missed and it will take a long time to deal with my grief. Rest in peace, Steph. I love you.

Updated to add that my friend was featured in this news article. The Kadcyla she mentions is the last chemo she ever received; it didn't give her the results she had hoped it would, and her liver mets grew while she was on it. Oh, I miss her so much.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gozer's ophthalmologist appointment

Gozer saw the veterinary ophthalmologist for her three-month follow-up appointment. We spent just over an hour there this morning because Gozer needed her pupils dilated. The technician didn't dilate her pupils at first so the appointment took a little bit longer than it should have. From now on Gozer's pupils will always be dilated at the beginning of these appointments to save everyone some time.

Gozer's cataract is unchanged, which is fabulous news. It means that the cataract isn't growing quickly even though it kind of appeared overnight.

The only thing that made us nervous was that when the technician first tested the pressure of her eye, the pressure of her cataract eye was considerably higher than that of her normal eye but when the doctor re-tested her eyes the pressure was about the same. Of course they get these numbers by putting a drop in her eye to harden the cornea and tapping it with an electronic measuring tool so I think it's possible to tap a little too hard and to give a false reading. The doctor did the test a few times on her cataract eye and came up with two numbers that matched the non-cataract eye and one that was near the original measurement. Clearly that test isn't always reliable.

We're to continue to give Gozer the drops we've been giving her and we'll go back for another checkup in six months.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Was feeling sick but I think I'm getting better

For the last couple of days I've really felt "off". I was really tired at the beginning of the week and then on Wednesday I started to feel not right. Over the last two days I could only eat half of my breakfast and couldn't drink my coffee; I couldn't eat anything else through the day. I felt queasy and the thought of food wasn't appealing at all.

I was also exhausted and weak and having chills and shakes (although I didn't have a fever) and I was having trouble with woogly back (like restless legs, I guess, but all over my back). I couldn't stop moving and I couldn't get comfortable at all so I was ending up in these awkward half-upside-down positions while moaning and whining. Sometimes having a very hot bath followed by a nap helped but other times nothing helped.

Gozer knew that something was wrong and she tried so hard to comfort me. She tried licking my face and climbing on me but I couldn't bear her weight. When I slept, she curled up very close to me (often taking my blankets) and carrying around my stuffed monkey. Ian wasn't happy to see that Gozer was on the bed but I liked having her there.

I thought that the problem might have been that I was constipated since my diet was different during our trip. The only thing that calmed my woogly back was percocet which would also have calmed my intestines - which wouldn't help if I was in fact constipated. Still, last night I was so desperate to stop the woogles that I had to do something. I asked Ian to get me some Ducolax (in case I was constipated) because I figured that would offset the effects of the percocet.

I also wondered if there was something wrong with one of my painkiller patches. I wear two of them and alternate changing them so that I don't have to go through withdrawl symptoms. Since the percocet helped, it's possible that the patch that got changed this morning was faulty or had been changed incorrectly beforehand or something. But then, what I was feeling wasn't quite the same as the feeling of opiate withdrawl that I've had before, which for me always involves a crazy amount of sweating. I wasn't experiencing that this time around.

I slept twelve hours last night and woke up feeling a LOT better. No woogles, I was hungry, and I wanted coffee. I had some jam on toast and had my regular morning coffee, and I had some toast later on in the day. I was even able to go outside and do some very light yard work, which I couldn't even have thought of doing over the last few days. The Dulcolax did achieve some results a bit later in the day but I wouldn't say that I was actually constipated. Or maybe I was, but I don't know if that was what was wrong and causing such terrible woogles, queasiness, and chills.

I still don't feel 100%; I don't want to eat all that much and chewing gum makes me feel very, very queasy. But I feel so much better than I have over the last few days. I think I might even be able to walk Gozer tonight, which is something I haven't done this whole week. I hope I keep getting better but I wish I knew why I've been so sick this last week.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sick with a side of whine

I don't know why but I'm feeling like crap today. I'm exhausted, I've got a headache, and my stomach is queasy. I hope I didn't catch anything while I was away.

I'd thought about going to Toronto on Thursday for the Society for North American Goldsmiths conference - it's for metalsmiths in North America and it's held in different cities each year. Having it practically in my own backyard is an opportunity that's almost too good to miss. However, the conference goes from 8:30am to 5pm which means that I'd need to be awake at 5am and wouldn't get home until 9pm.... and I'm not sure I'm up for that.

If I hadn't been away last week or I wasn't feeling quite so sick today, I think I could probably do the conference without exhausting myself too much. However, I'm worried that if I do push myself to go, I'll end up even more exhausted and it'll end up taking days or weeks to recover.

But I really wanted to go. It's a little frustrating to run smack into my limitations. The grown-up thing to do is to accept that I have limitations and not go to the conference on Thursday. Sigh. I can travel to the conference another year.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Our trip

We're back! Ok, we got back on Friday night but I've been really tired. The trip to the Dominican Republic was ok. We stayed at a 4 1/2 star all-inclusive resort and we've never been to a place quite that fancy. We don't really want all the services that such a fancy place provides, like turn-down service at night (where they close the blinds in the room, turn the comforter down and leave chocolates, and leave slippers by each side of the bed) and the luggage-handling.

They wanted to take our luggage up to our room themselves when we got there and that's weird to us; then when we left, they had us pack a couple of hours early so that they could get the luggage out of the room early. I know that the staff at such a fancy resort can be trusted and all that but I'm uncomfortable having my luggage out of my sight and control.

The resort itself was lovely in that manicured, pesticide-spraying way. The pesticide meant that there were no mosquitoes, which was nice, and better(?) than getting malaria. There were a ton of different kinds of palm trees there which was really neat. There wasn't a lot of air-conditioning there; the buildings were open to the breezes and had fans that helped to keep the areas cool. The room (which was actually a suite with a kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom, jacuzzi-tub room, and bathroom) was air-conditioned and had fans to keep the air moving.

The beaches there are beautiful; the sand has the texture of sugar. They're kept fairly clean with the seaweed raked off the beach each morning. The ocean is very, very warm and lovely to swim in.

The resort had a number of restaurants but we ate at the buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was a good selection of foods for each meal and while we had to extend our low-fat diet a bit we were able to keep to it as much as possible.

The major excursion we did was this snorkeling tour. There was a big group of us and they took us to this "snorkel park" with penned up sharks and manta rays. I didn't go snorkeling because I've never done it, I suck at swimming, and I'm not sure I'm fit enough to do it. It's just as well that I didn't go because they offered no instruction at all on using the snorkeling equipment; as well, the people from the tour company that were in the water spoke no English. I'd like to try snorkeling but in a more controlled situation, and this wasn't it.

The tour also went to "Paradise", a natural pool just off the coast. It was fairly shallow for normal adults at just over four feet deep and it was perfectly calm. A number of tour boats were there and some were doing line dances there. Unfortunately it was a little cold because it was cloudy so swimming in the natural pool wasn't as fun as it could have been.

The weather was fairly hot and humid and it rained over a couple of the nights that we were there. The sun, when it was out, was super-hot, so we wore sunscreen and sun protection clothing. We did spend some time reading on the beach under these cabana things that provided shade.

One thing I discovered is that I don't handle the heat very well, especially when it's mixed up with me being tired. I get super-cranky and lose all of the tools I've developed to handle situations where I feel out of control. It was worst when we arrived at the resort and again when we were waiting for our transportation home from the airport.

When we got there, I was exhausted from waking up at 4am and dozing but not really sleeping on the plane and then walking into this wall of heat and humidity. Our room wasn't ready until an hour and a half after we checked in and I was frustrated, hot, exhausted, and terribly cranky. On the way back, I was again exhausted from waking up at 5:30am to see the sunrise and then traveling through the heat. By the time we got to the airport I just wanted to crawl into a hole and  sleep. But we had to wait for our transportation to arrive. Sigh.

I'll talk to my psychologist about ways to handle these situations where I'm completely overwhelmed and tired. Avoiding them is best but that's not always possible; really, if I could just accept that the thing I want the most - to be in my own room or at home - can't happen right that second, I'd be better off.

So that was basically the highlights of the trip. We wouldn't choose to go to a hot destination again because we didn't love the heat at all and I'm not sure about the whole all-inclusive resort thing, but I'm glad we had this experience. We did have fun there and I'm happy we went.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Yesterday's Toronto trip

I promised that I'd talk about my appointment in Toronto. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but my oncologist referred me to a clinical trial at Princess Margaret Hospital. Apparently there are about 200 known DNA mutations in different cancers and they're going to figure out whether my tumours have any of those mutations. They've found some treatments that can target those mutations as well.

If another mutation becomes known they'll test my tissue for that, too. They'll even send my oncologist the results to my oncologist so that if the mutations are associated with treatments I can get those treatments. I had thought they were looking for new mutations but they're not doing that; they're just working with what's known.

While I was there, they took my blood so that they could compare generalized mutations (the ones that would show up in my bloodwork and tumour) from cancer-specific mutations. Because I was traveling throughout the day I didn't have as much water as I normally do so I was a bit dehydrated. As a result, the technician who came to take my blood couldn't get any out of my (admittedly pathetic) veins. She walked me down to another place and they accessed my port. I hadn't wanted to go down to the lab because I'd heard that they can take a long time but they weren't busy at all.

After all that, it took my three hours to get home when it should have taken an hour and a half. Poor Gozer was home all by herself for almost eight hours :( When Ian got home he could hear her barking because she was alone. At least we don't have to leave her alone like that very often.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Shopping, shopping, and more shopping

I've been so busy lately with at least one appointment or commitment pretty much every weekday. So far I haven't been too overwhelmed but I'm starting to feel tired and edgy.

I've had an additional pressure for the last few weeks from getting ready for a trip next week. We have an opportunity to go to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and even though we don't like the heat or a lot of sunshine, a trip like this doesn't come around too often. Besides, we're staying at a resort, which we've never done before, and we might discover that we love the experience.

Going someplace hot and sunny means that we swimsuits for the pool and ocean as well as sun-protective clothing. In addition to my usual complement of activities - metalsmithing class, physiotherapy for the lymphedema, and doctors appointments - I've been doing a LOT of shopping. Yesterday, for example, I had an appointment in downtown Toronto (more on that tomorrow) and on the way there I stopped by the Sunveil store for a new sunveil jacket for each of us. I have a light blue button-up shirt that I bought years and years ago that's got grime on the cuffs that won't come out so I wanted to replace it.

I also stopped by the MEC to buy some long-sleeved sun-shirts/rashguards that have built-in sun protection for both Ian and myself. Finding long-sleeved shirts like this was quite difficult as the selection for adults is very low in local stores. While I was there, I bought myself a couple of bathing suits. During the last week I've been trying on swimsuits in all sorts of stores to try to figure out which styles are flattering and minimize the difference between my boobs. I don't really want to wear a prosthetic breast while in the pool or at the ocean but I also don't want the difference to be obvious to everyone. It turns out that halter tops with patterns work pretty well.

Trying on swimsuits is one of the most demoralizing activities ever. In my head my skin and muscles are firm and although I'm soft, I'm soft in a curvy way. The reality is that my skin is sagging, as are my muscles, and my legs are less shapely than lumpy and share certain characteristics with tree trunks. The wrong sized suit creates an unattractive muffin-top effect at my hips. I'm not the young woman I used to be and trying on swimsuits is a sad reminder of this fact.

In addition to the stuff I bought yesterday, I'd ordered sun-shirts/rashguards, swimsuits, and board shorts for me online. Not everything fits properly so much of it is being returned but some of it works.

I'm looking forward to the trip. It's a short one (only three nights away) so it'll be long enough to get a sense of what the area and staying at a resort are like. Plus now I have some relatively flattering suits and swimwear :)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Taxes done for another year

We finally got our taxes done today. Usually we do them over Easter at Ian's parent's but this year Easter was so early that we didn't want to do it. I don't really remember why but it was maybe our receipts and stuff weren't sorted.

Anyways, we meant to go and do our taxes but last weekend we were tired and this weekend Ian was getting over an eye infection. Therefore, we did our taxes at home today. Well, Ian did them, really. They're filed jointly so they're filled out at the same time and mine are dead simple: I have a single T4A slip with a single filled box so there's just the one entry and I'm done. Ian's got more than that to do so he filled all the stuff in. Makes sense, right?

I always owe a little bit because the disability income (which is the single form I get) doesn't withhold any taxes. In previous years, I've owed about $100 but this year I only owed $43. I've paid it and now my annual tax chore is finished.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Spring is here! Well, mostly - the temperature is a little low for this time of year but I think it's stabilizing to near-normal values. Plants in our garden are growing, the grass is green and growing, the birds are arriving en masse at our feeders, and the ants are here.

Of all the signs of spring, it's the ants that I dislike the most. I don't mind them when they're outside in the ground but they find their way into our house via the cracking caulking around the patio doors. From there they travel through the cracks between the hardwood planks to Gozer's food, other plants, the bird food, and the rest of the kitchen. Each of the last two years we've woken up one day to find huge numbers of ants between two areas.

This year we were lucky; we have Gozer the Huntress. She loves mice but she also loves insects - including ants. Over the last couple of days I've noticed her watching the floor and licking at it. I took a closer look and saw the ants. I spread some diatomaceous earth down around the areas where they travel in the hopes that if they cross the barrier, they'll die.

Because the temperature outside has warmed up, I've been spending time outside working in the garden. One thing I've been working on with my psychologist is figuring out how to do things I like without overdoing it. So the way I've been working is to set an alarm to go off in 30 minutes. When it does go off, I take a break, relax for five or ten minutes, and get a drink of water. Then I evaluate how I'm feeling; if I feel good, I set the alarm for another 30 minutes. I've only been doing this for a couple of days but I seem to be less exhausted than I normally would after doing the work. I hope this process works because I'll need all my strength to deal with the ants.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Conference fun

I had the best time in Philly at the conference this weekend. Getting there wasn't fun because of the winter storms; my flight into Philly was cancelled and I waited on standby in Chicago for hours before I could get out. Hanging around Chicago's O'Hare airport is less fun than it sounds.

One of the worst parts about being at O'Hare is that they don't provide free wireless internet the way most other airports do. Instead, they have a contract with Boingo and each user has to pay for access. I paid the $4.95 fee for the day via Paypal and happily used the web while I was there. I was shocked and angry when Boingo withdrew another $6.95 fee the next day; I hadn't authorized them to do so and I hadn't accessed their services. Naturally I emailed them right away and while they refused to admit that they had done wrong, my $6.95 fee should be refunded some time in the nest four days. They've asked me to call them if I have any other questions but I'll continue communicating with them via email so that there's a record of what they're telling me.

Some research uncovered the fact that Boigo has screwed over many, many people by overcharging and by making unauthorized charges. Boingo are scammers and it's better to go without internet than to use their services.

Aside from those hassles, my trip was uneventful. The conference wasn't as good as it's been in the past but I was mainly there to see my friends. Saturday night instead of going out to dinner we decided to get together in an open seating area on the floor some were staying on and I enjoyed that so much more than dinner. We hung out and laughed and talked and generally had a great time. I loved it.

Leaving everyone is always bittersweet because I don't know when I"ll see them next ... or if I will see them again. The happy and joyful moments I get to spend with them won't make up for the pain of losing my friends but they make my current life so much better that I couldn't give them up.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Our cute dog and my lymphedema

Gozer has been hunting chipmunks and mice in our yard since we got her. Last year we caught her with a stiff, dead mouse in her mouth and then a floppy, newly-dead mouse. At that time we weren't sure whether a cat had killed the mice and she'd just taken them or if she'd killed them herself.

Whether she killed those mice or not, we now know for sure that Gozer hunts and kills mice. This morning I watched her follow something through the grass with her ears forward to catch all the noises. I turned away for a couple of seconds and when I turned back she was coming towards me with something in her mouth. She dropped it, picked it up, and ran towards me with it before dropping it in front of me. It was clearly freshly killed by her.

No wonder she eviscerates her plush squeaky toys, and I'm grateful that she didn't get the chance to do that to her kill today. Her new nickname is "The Huntress."

In other news, I feel awful. The physiotherapist did the lymphatic massage on me and I've been feeling awful since then: exhausted, incredibly nauseous, bad heartburn, terrible gas, and smelly evacuations. It's great that the massage did something but I could do without these side effects.

Happily, my compression sleeve and glove have arrived and I'll be picking them up tomorrow. This means that I won't need to wear the compression bandaging all the time and that is some kind of thrilling. I'd feel more thrilled if I didn't feel quite so awful. I hope I'm better tomorrow.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Oncologist appointment and more lymphedema

I saw my oncologist yesterday and she is very, very pleased with the improvements she saw in the areas affected by the lymphedema. She's so pleased, in fact, that I don't need to go back for eight weeks.

She was especially pleased with the changes in colour and texture on my affected breast: it's no longer an angry red colour, the tissue can be moved from side to side and is no longer "stuck" to the chest all, and the skin is less bumpy in texture. I guess the changes that I thought were just the morphea were actually from lymphedema caused by the morphea. The morphea made the skin much less elastic which meant that the lymph fluid couldn't move as easily. Eventually the lymph fluid just built up in the breast and backed up into the arm.

I wish I'd known more about lymphedema because then I'd have asked to see the physiotherapist early on. She could have worked on the skin and possibly prevented this whole lymphedema mess. Unfortunately, it occurred to no one that the morphea could cause lymphedema problems because morphea is rare and lymphedema is not well-understood. The lesson here is that if you've had radiation to a body part and you develop any kind of skin condition on that part, look out for lymphedema.

My oncologist is also sending me to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto where they're doing this COMPACT (Community Oncology Molecular Profiling in Advanced Cancer Trial) clinical trial which is based on this IMPACT trial. From what I understand, they're looking for genetic mutations in specific cancer types so that they can eventually develop therapies targeted at the effects those mutations cause. The advantage to targeted therapies or treatments is that they're much less toxic to healthy cells and they're very effective.

This clinical trial doesn't require much of anything from me (just a visit to Toronto - everything else happens behind the scenes) and my participation will help in the future. I know that targeted therapies based on this trial are many years or decades away but if the information isn't collected now, those therapies will be even longer in coming. So I'll be participating.

I also asked for a referral to the dietitian on staff - my psychologist had suggested this in my last appointment - and they're setting that up.

I think that's it for yesterday's appointment. In other news, someone had asked about what my arm and hand wrapping looked like so I took a few pictures with my phone with Gozer in the background. Enjoy!

As much of my arm as I could get. The wrapping goes up to my armpit. The wrapping at the very top is a different colour because it's actually a different product with higher compression. We used leftovers to wrap my arm and since it's important to get the wrap good and snug at the top (or else it starts to slide down and that's very uncomfortable), using the higher compression wrap is ok there.

My outer forearm and hand on Gozer. The thing you see at the very top of the picture is a purple hippo squeaky that Gozer is holding in her mouth while she sleeps.

My inner forearm and hand. The creases you see are from the edges of the inner comfort layer wrapping (and sometimes from the outer layer). Both wrappings spiral up my arm from my hand and when I rotate my arm or hand the edges of the wrappings deform a bit. 

My hand. There's a bit of bulk over the fleshy part of the thumb which makes it difficult to use the hand. There's extra bulk over the wrist, too, but I needed that to have even compression around the wrist. Because my wrist is narrow it was hard to get the comfort layer tight enough (but not too tight!) around the hand, wrist, and forearm to provide much-needed compression on the wrist. There's extra comfort layer around the wrist which makes wrapping the area sooooo much easier.

My palm and hand. My fingers are coming to get you!

Monday, April 01, 2013

A long post after a long break

I'm still here! Yesterday was my birthday and I spent it in a low-key way. We were visiting Ian's parents for Easter and Ian's mom made me an angel food cake with an Italian frosting (sugar at the soft ball stage poured into egg whites beaten to soft peaks) so that I could have a cake without any saturated fat. I was touched and pleased that she went to all that trouble to make the super-delicious cake for me. Ian's mom even modified her usual hot cross bun recipe to reduce the saturated fat for us so that we could enjoy more of them.

I spent most of my birthday sitting around and being a bit lazy. I'm ok with being lazy :) I'm finding my days a bit busier what with all of the lymphedema physiotherapy appointments and exercises. The appointments take about an hour and a half out of my day twice a week and the exercises themselves take about a half hour to do, after which I'm supposed to lie down and relax for a few minutes to a half-hour - the longer the better to allow the lymph fluid to move around and settle after its been stimulated by the exercises. The relaxing time after the relaxing, slow exercises usually results in a relaxing nap that lasts until Ian calls to tell me he's coming home.

I'm still trying to get other things done but I'm also trying to not overwhelm myself. I'm getting up early (for me) most days with the appointments and metalsmithing once a week and other appointments. I feel like I'm on the edge of too busy but I haven't gone over that edge.

At least the physiotherapy and exercises seem to be helping the lymphedema. We've started wrapping my fingers as well and they're definitely slimming down; Ian even commented recently that my arm looked smaller. I don't love the bandages but I found a cream that makes my arm itch so much less under them that they're much more bearable than they were. The nurse at the clinic where I get my port flushed gave me samples of Sween 24 and it worked like magic! It absorbed really quickly into the skin and it really helped reduce the irritation and itch. I highly recommend this product.

If it sounds like my life is all lymphedema all the time... it is, kind of. I'm aware of it all the time  whether I'm wearing the bandages or not.

Gozer is very happy. The snow recently melted in our backyard and exposed the chipmunk trails from their burrows under the snow. She decided to roll around in them yesterday and got herself completely filthy so ended up with an unexpected bath yesterday. She's getting groomed tomorrow and we'd hoped to not have to clean her before that. She doesn't mind getting the eye drops nearly as much as she did at the beginning: we don't have to hold her still anymore. Yay!

I've also finally given in on the "Gozer on the bed" issue. I wanted Gozer to be able to come on the bed and nap with me when I get to a point where I sleep a lot. Ian pointed out to me that I'm nowhere near that point and it won't be at all difficult to get her to come on the bed at that point. So I'm going to work on being firmer with her and keeping her off the bed.

Part of the reason for keeping her off the bed is to show her that I'm ahead of her in our pack heirarchy. She's not all that well behaved these days, what with barking at other dogs, showing no leash respect, not always coming to us when we call her, and jumping up on all furniture, and we want to train her to be better behaved. We'd like to take her to a dog park because she likes other dogs and clearly wants to play sometimes but can't on a leash. However, because she won't come to us when we call her, we don't think we have enough control over her to take her to the park. We figure that setting me up as a pack leader over her will help to train her out of her bad behaviours and to get control over her so that she can meet other dogs at the park.

On another topic, Ian's asked me to work on putting away my fabric and he's willing to help me do it on weekends. So starting next weekend, we're going to start working on the fabric. This way, I can start looking at doing some sewing in my sewing room. I really want to be sewing (especially once I get the lymphedema compression garments and don't have to be bandaged) but to do it, I need to get some of my fabric put away. I at least need to go through the fabric I might use for a particular project before I start working on that project!

Finally, almost all of our pepper seedlings are growing! Our first batch didn't grow, probably because I didn't water them enough, but after we set up a second batch both batches sprouted. About three-quarters of the seeds from both batches have sprouted and are growing their true leaves, which is a pretty good success rate for peppers, I think. Ian transplanted the seedlings into root trainers today and we'll see how many survive that process. We really only need ten pepper plants (two of each of the five types) and we currently have, let's see, 90 divided by five is 18 of each type.

Anyways, that's about it for me. Written all out it seems like a lot, doesn't it? It's only because it's been much too long.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More lymphedema wrapping adventures

The compression wrapping and I aren't getting along very well. The first wrapping rubbed around my thumb and I felt like I was getting a blister there so I ended up putting a big thing of gauze under the wrapping to provide some padding around the thumb. After I cut off the first wrap yesterday morning I noticed that the skin along my inner forearm was red and bumpy. I think it was a heat rash since I've been known to get them.

My physiotherapist and I decided to try wrapping the arm again for the weekend even though I'd developed the rash. She put an extra layer around the thumb to provide padding so that it wouldn't get blisters. Unfortunately, my skin became unbearably itchy yesterday afternoon underneath the wrapping. It felt like there were things pricking my skin and the slightest movement registered as pain. I ended up taking Benadryl to try to calm the reaction a bit and it did work alhough it left me very sleepy. I ended up asleep for most of yesterday afternoon and evening but at least I didn't feel the itch or pain while I was asleep so that's ok, right?

Then last night I woke up in the middle of the night because the tip of my thumb on the wrapped arm was numb. I fell back asleep and woke up a few times because it was still numb. I tried to shift the wrapping a bit to relieve the pressure on whichever nerve was making my thumb numb but nothing worked - my thumb was still numb. I looked up numbness and this wrapping online and found that if the patient experiences tingling or numbness in the extremities after the wrapping, the wrapping should be removed right away and the doctor contacted.

I don't have a direct phone number for my physiotherapist and by the time I realized that the wrapping needed to come off, it was 4pm and the cancer center switch board was closed. I removed the wrapping anyways because I figured that it was the right thing to do. Now, six hours later, the tip of my thumb is still numb which is a little worrying. I hope that I can recover sensation in it before Monday. I have Raynaud's phenomenon in my hands and feet; could that have contributed to my numb thumb?

My forearm was also quite red and bumpy for a while but it seems to have settled down.

My physiotherapist did say that if this type of wrapping didn't work, we could do the kind of wrapping that they used to do. This other wrapping is changed daily and uses a different product so it might be better for me and my thumb. After this experience I'm wondering if it would be better to go a different wrapping route.

In other lymphedema treatment news, my hand and forearm were measured yesterday for a compression sleeve and glove. There has been no real change in the measurements in the one week but it's important that I have something for my travel in three weeks. The person checked and my measurements don't fit into the ready-to-wear measurements so my sleeve and glove need to be custom-made. It's going to take about two weeks for them to arrive so they'll be here in time for my trip.

Lymphedema and its treatment both suck. Wah!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One bandaged arm

My arm did get bandaged up at the physiotherapist's appointment yesterday. The wrapping stuff are new products by 3M that have only been around for about two years. The arm is wrapped twice: first with a foam comfort layer that's backed by that stretchy bandage that sticks to itself and then with a second layer of the stretchy bandage that sticks to itself.

The bandage is fairly comfortable except around my thumb. The edges of the bandages were cutting into the meat of my thumb. I trimmed the bandage a bit and now the bandages are cutting into the webbing between the thumb and first finger. I've been experimenting with gauze to pad the area a bit but it really hurts and I'm worried about getting a blister there. The point is to get rid of the lymph through my arm, not through a blister.

I'm also having some trouble bathing with this bandage. It's not supposed to get wet so I bought one of those waterproof cast protectors. The first time I used it I didn't do it properly so the bandage got wet. The second time I did use it properly but because I was sweating in the silicone, waterproof bag, the bandage got wet.

Wah! I like my baths but the baths don't work with the bandages.

Fortunately, the bandaging won't be forever. I take these bandages off (by which I mean I cut them off) on Thursday morning before the next appointment. The physiotherapist will do the massage on me and before I leave, another specialist will come and measure my arm so that I can be fitted for a compression sleeve. After that, my arm will be re-bandaged for the weekend. I spoke with the other specialist and she said that a sleeve will take up to three weeks to arrive.

The important thing is that I will have a compression sleeve before I leave for Philadelphia on April 12. I checked and the only way to get there in any reasonable time is to fly so that's what we're preparing my arm to do. Apparently if you're wearing bandages, security makes you cut them off because you might be hiding something there so I must have a compression sleeve.

Anyways, if the compression sleeve arrives within three weeks, I only have to be bandaged for that long. I think I can live with that (although don't be surprised if I whine about it).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

More on the lymphatic massage

I think I remember now that the physiotherapist asked me to wear loose clothes this coming Monday because she's going to try bandaging my arm after giving me the lymphatic massage. In that case, it would only stay on until Thursday. Either way, I'll wear a top (or combination of tops - I usually wear a t-shirt and sweater combination) with loose-fitting sleeves.

The physiotherapist told me that the fluid under the skin contains cellular waste products and that the lymphatic massage will help those waste products to be filtered out and cleared from the body. It's important to drink lots of water to help this stuff be processed. I did some research and it seems that some people get lymphatic massages to clear the body of toxins (although they really mean cellular waste products and not external toxins).

Anyways, these waste products and the extra fluid end up being filtered through the kidneys and liver. Therefore, my physiotherapist warned me that I might feel a bit nauseous or off my food and that there might be an increase in sweat, urine, or bowel movements. She also warned me that the cellular waste products can change the smell of those secretions and excretions.

She was right on all counts - everything she described, I felt or experienced. I also felt that pain in my right side that I keep thinking is my liver but is most likely my bowel which I figure was also related to the side effects of the lymphatic massage. All of these things together tell me that the lymphatic massage definitely had some effect.

I'm feeling a bit better this evening even though I'm still off my food. I'll eat food but I won't seek it out and I'm not getting exciting about it. Maybe that's a good thing?

I've been doing the exercises that I've been given and so far I've only had problems with one of them. In that one, I lie flat on my back, raise my bent knee, grasp my shin, and bounce the knee back towards my chest using only my hips and not my back. The ball of my femur is too big for the hip socket which greatly reduces my flexibility and this exercise strains the limits of what little flexibility I have. I'll talk to my physiotherapist on Monday about changing that exercise to account for my hips.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lymphedema physiotherapist appointment

I saw the physiotherapist today. She measured my arms every 20cm up the arm starting 40cm from the tip of my longest finger to see whether and how much lymphedema was there: anything more than 2cm on the arm is considered a significant amount. Also, the dominant hand and arm are generally larger than the non-dominant side. I think when I had it before there was only about 1cm of swelling.

I'm right-handed and the left hand and arm have the lymphedema. My lower forearm, upper forearm, ower bicep, and upper bicep are 1.5cm, 2.0cm, and 1.5cm, and 1.0cm larger than the right side. My left hand is 0.5cm larger than the right hand which is significant for it being a non-dominant hand. So I have lymphedema and it's a significant amount.

She explained that between the muscle or fat and skin is a space that fills with fluid via the arteries and capillaries due to the pumping of the heart. There are lymphatic vessels in that space that collect that fluid, after which it's sent back through lymph nodes to filter out waste products. The whole system is divided into four quadrants: right and left sides of the body and above and below the waist.

In my case, the fluid is blocked in most of the upper left quadrant due to a combination of factors. There are the lymph nodes that were taken out in my underarm when I had the primary cancer, and then the are the mediastinal lymph nodes that were taken out when we found out I had sarcoidosis, and then there's the area that was irradiated as part of my primary treatment, and then there's the morphea which has tightened the skin. All of that together means that the lymph channels are damaged or blocked and the skin is also damaged and tight so the fluid doesn't move.

Because that whole quadrant is blocked, normally we'd just move the fluid over to the other side. However, the missing mediastinal nodes make that difficult as there aren't as many channels available. So instead we have to move the fluid to the lower left quadrant which is a bit more difficult.

She did some lymphatic massage on me which basically pushes the fluid under the skin around and it definitely felt better afterwards. This kind of massage is very different from muscle massage; she described it as standing in a pool and making ripples that go to the other end of the pool. It's very slow and steady and relaxing. She's given me exercises to do at home that are supposed to stimulate the lymph system and fluid flow that are also supposed to be done in a slow, smooth, relaxing way.

I'll be seeing her on Monday and Thursday and during those visits we're going to continue with lymphatic massage while I do the exercises at home. She wants to see how things go this way - apparently it's important to not to try to force the fluid to move too fast or it can bound back. Then on the following Monday I think she's going to try to bandage up the arm with the foam bandage stuff and that stretchy bandage stuff that sticks to itself. It'll stay on for four days.

She said that the sleeve and gauntlet that I had before definitely wouldn't work since things were so different and that I will be needing a new set. She wants to wait to see how things are doing before we order the garments to make sure that I get the right kind with the right kind of compression in the right places. When I do get the garments, apparently provincial insurance will cover 75% of the cost if I have a thing that says that I need to wear it every day for six months. She'll give me the thing that says that because it'll be true.

We also talked about my upcoming trip to Philadelphia April 13 and 14. She said that I'll definitely need to wear compression garments when I fly from now on. However, she's not sure that it'll be time to order the compression garments before I go. She might be able to bandage the arm because it gets left there for four days and that's long enough for the trip. Another option could be for me to take the train there.

So... that's it, I think.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Optometrist's appointment

I got my pupils dilated today at the optometrist's office, just like Gozer did when she saw the eye doctor. And just like Gozer, I have a small cataract in my right eye. We're like twins!

Seriously, I have a small cataract in my right eye. My optometrist had thought I had Mittendorf's spot in my left eye but the spot that just appeared in the right eye can't be the same thing (since it's a genetic malformation) so now she's thinking that the spot in the left eye is also a small cataract.

The spots aren't affecting my vision at this point so I can pretend they're not there. My ego is taking a bit of a blow because cataracts like this are a normal part of aging and are a sign that I'm getting older. I don't mind living more years if I didn't actually have to age.

Someday, if the cataracts get bad enough, the lenses can be taken out and replaced with artificial lenses.... which could also give me near-perfect vision. I don't want cataracts and I certainly don't want my vision to dim, but the possibility of having really good vision sets my heart a-fluttering with longing. Wouldn't it be awesome if I lived long enough to be able to see without thick lenses?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Appointment and the house

I received a call from the cancer center today with my appointment with the lymphedema physiotherapist. The appointment is scheduled for this Thursday at 11am. I'm thrilled that they got me in so quickly as my oncologist wasn't sure that they booked took urgent appointments.

Unfortunately, the hour-long physio appointment conflicts with my metalsmithing class. I'll still be able to go to class but I already had to leave early so I'll only be there for an hour or so. Of course I don't know whether I'll be up for doing any actual metalsmithing after the appointment so it's just as well I won't be there that long.

I need to leave early because Thursday afternoon is the only day that my cleaning person can come. I have a harder time than usual doing things around the house what with the lymphedema and she hasn't been here for five weeks so I'm willing to sacrifice some metalsmithing time for her to come. Of course it's March break so she'll have her two boys with her but I'm willing to put up with that just to get the house cleaned.

Five weeks ago she cancelled her appointment with me because her dad had just been admitted to hospital with pneumonia for the third time in four months. I understand how heartbreaking that can be so I asked her to let me know how things were going and that we'd reschedule when things settled down.

I heard nothing from her until just over three weeks ago, when she said she needed to cancel our appointment because she needed to see her dad. He'd been released from hospital but she wanted to visit him. The only time she offered to reschedule was on the weekend which didn't work for Ian at all - he's been busy travelling and with work and he wants to relax on the weekends.

At first the only other option she gave me was our next appointment which would mean that our house wouldn't be cleaned for six weeks and that's just not going to work. Therefore, I'm sacrificing my privacy and my time to get the house cleaned.

I am, however, starting to look for another cleaner. My cleaner is a nice person but I need someone a little more reliable. If you know of a good, reliable cleaner in my area, please let me know.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oncologist appointment

I saw my oncologist this past Friday. The best news is that my tumour markers are still holding steady at a nice, low 34. Yay!

However, my oncologist was quite concerned about the lymphedema I've got. It's still in my left hand and arm and it hurts when I try to do certain things like put my hand flat on a hard surface and straighten my arm, or bring my hand to be perpendicular to my arm, or if something puts pressure on a part of my forearm.

Then on Wednesday I freaked out a bit because my underarm felt strange. If I raise my bent arm to shoulder level, the skin just at the front of the skin is all dimply. If I raise my hand above my head and straighten my arm as much as I can, there are three ropey things in my underarm.

My oncologist looked at all this and told me that my breast (this is the one with morphea) is full of lymph fluid, as is my side, and those ropey things are lymph vessels that are showing up because there's so much fluid in the whole area (this phenomenon is known as "cording"). Of great concern to her is the fact that my morphea breast is pinker than usual; apparently when fluid builds up and sits there like this, a cellulitis infection can show up and it starts with pink skin. I'm to watch for pain in the area and/or a fever and they show up, I'm to head to the emergency department immediately.

Apparently the cancer center has a physiotherapist who specializes in lymphedema and my oncologist is referring me to this person. She's hoping to get me in urgently because of the cording and swelling everywhere. She also wants to see me in four weeks instead of our usual three months because if we can't get the fluid moving we need to scan to figure out what's causing the blockage.

Hopefully I can get in to see the physiotherapist and we can get the fluid moving so that I can use my arm and hand again.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Red Carpet

The Academy Awards ceremony isn't the end of Oscar night - there are many parties that go on before, during, and after the ceremony. The two biggest parties are the Vanity Fair and the Elton John parties. Many of the celebrities who walked the Oscar red carpet attend one or both of these parties and change their outfits to attend. You know what that means - more outfits to evaluate!

Of the two, I think the Vanity Fair party is bigger and more interesting so I've chosen to evaluate the outfits worn on its "red" carpet.

I've gone through these outfits quite quickly and haven't written nearly as much as I had written for the recent red carpet posts. I've also taken a rather irreverent approach that I hope you'll like. Shall we take a look?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

2013 Academy Awards Red Carpet

And here it is - finally! My red carpet post from the Academy Awards. I probably could have finished this sooner if I'd worked on it harder but after being so busy over the last couple of weeks I wanted to take it as easy as possible this week.

There are quite a few interesting dresses on this red carpet which should be no surprise because not everyone knows how to dress to flatter their figure or colouring. I know there are stylists to help but not everyone uses a stylist and not ever stylist knows what they're doing.

There wasn't that much black on this red carpet which was a welcome change. White and nude are still popular colours and there were also varying shades of blue and a few reds which I really liked. There was a lot of beaded and sequin fabrics and embellishments which of course I love :)

Anyways, enough of me blathering on. Let's look at the dresses!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A couple of things

It's Oscar night! I'm watching the red carpet show and there are lots and lots of sparkly dresses. There are some non-sparkly dresses, too, of course, but embellishments are really trendy right now. I'm really looking forward to doing the red carpet post this week. I'd like to think I can get it done in a couple of days but let's be realistic - it'll take most of, if not the entire, week.

Today we planted our pepper seeds. We've bought pepper plants and planted them for the last two years but this year we decided to grow our peppers from seed for the very first time. We planted five kinds of seeds (three hot pepper and two sweet pepper varieties) in moist soil and they're sitting in their covered trays on the heating mat under a 24-hour light. Apparently peppers are tropical plants and so need the extra heat to germinate - at least that's the theory. We'll see if it pans out.

If for some reason this batch doesn't work out there will still time to grow a second batch. Our growing season is extended a bit with the greenhouse. We may do a second growing just for fun just because we can.

Tomorrow is the last day I have to get up early to drive Ian to work for a few days. I'm looking forward to sleeping in on Tuesday; I was up early this weekend to walk and feed Gozer. Not having to do anything Tuesday morning is very exciting.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Almost overdoing it

These last few weeks have been exhausting for me. I've had something that I've had to do just about every day and I haven't had the kind of downtime that I've become accustomed to having. Because most of my activities have needed the car, I've been driving Ian to work and then picking him up afterwards. 

That's not so bad, really, except that to drive Ian to work I get up when he and Gozer get back from their walk and then I don't have time to make coffee or anything before we have to go. I feel rushed then and then I get home and rush to have breakfast and get ready to do whatever I need to do that day. Lather and repeat the next day.

I know that most people do more than that every single day but I haven't been doing that much so I'm finding it exhausting. This morning I got up earlier and had breakfast and coffee before Ian got back from the walk and it was much better for me. I was able to putter around making breakfast and to relax before my day really started. I didn't know I needed that time but clearly I do.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I have to take care of Gozer because Ian's curling all day but other than that I'm going to be relaxing in front of the tv with Gozer. She's missed me being able to sit with her, too - she keeps grabbing her squeakies (including Snakey, her newest squeaky that she loves more than any squeaky she's ever had) and running downstairs to wait for me. We're both going to enjoy tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

All about Gozer

Gozer saw the veterinary ophthalmologist on Friday because the vet had spotted a cataract in her right eye a couple of months ago that has visibly grown since its first discovery. I've held off posting the results because I had trouble understanding the information. I'm not used to all of these technical terms, you see, so it took a while for me to do the research. Well, I was also working on the red carpet post.

Ok, that's it for anatomy! We weren't sure what to expect but it turns out that they do the same exams on dogs as they do on people, just with slightly different equipment. It would be hard to get a dog to put its chin on the chin rest, lean forward, and stay still, after all! The ophthalmologist uses hand-held versions of the people version and holds the dog's face still using the other hand.

One test that's different is that they check tear production by sticking a test paper under her lid. Apparently some people do get to have this particular test but it's not one that's done unless there are problems. Gozer's corneas were also dyed to check for damage to them and her pupils were dilated to see what's going on.

Her tear production is apparently normal and her corneas showed no damage at all. She definitely does have a cataract in her right eye located "medial equatorial and cortical (mainly posterior, though anterior also involved)" which I think means that it's in the cortex of the lens around about the middle mostly towards the back of the lens and spreading to the front. Since the cortex is composed of new-ish lens fibres, a cataract there means that it's new-ish and hasn't been there forever.

She has other issues with her right eye; in particular she has a "posterior synechiae at 3 o'clock and associated with a small hole in the iris at this point." The posterior synechiae is where the back (posterior) of the iris is stuck or adhered (synechiae) to the front of the lens capsule or membrane surrounding the lens. The ophthalmologist thinks that she had some kind of trauma to her eye when she was younger that caused the hole in the iris and the adhesion, and that these in turn somehow caused the cataract to form. I'm not exactly sure how that's possible but he's the doctor so he must know what he's talking about.

We've been given Ketorolac (0.5%) drops to put into her right eye twice a day forever to try to keep prevent the cataract from getting larger. Apparently as the cataract progresses it can leak lens fibers and that's bad. The ophthalmologist wants to see her in three months to see how she's doing. He didn't talk about surgery this time around.

I don't know if it helps, but here are diagrams of the canine eye and lens to help you visualize what's going on. Don't let the human-looking eye in this diagram fool you - this is definitely a canine eye:
And here's a picture of the structure of the lens itself. It's in the same orientation as in the diagram of the eye above. Notice that the curvature of the lens is different on each side - I didn't know that was the case, but apparently it is. It's amazing what a person can learn with a bit of research, huh?

The posterior (P) of the lens is the back of the lens facing the retina, the anterior (A) is the front of the lens against the iris, the equator (E) is the widest point from top to bottom of the lens, and the capsule contains the lens itself. The lens is made up of fibres that are constantly being replenished; as new ones are formed in the subcapsular cortex (SC), the older ones are compressed into the cortex (C) and the very oldest ones are compressed into the nucleus (N).

We also took a picture of Gozer's right eye:

The green is the reflection of the pupil through the dilated pupil and the brown ring is her iris. The extra bump on the iris towards the bottom of the picture (her inner eye) and the little brown streaks coming from that are the adhesions or synechaie, I think. I think the white are between her pupil and that extra bump in the iris might be the cataract but I'm not sure. I'm not exactly sure where the hole in the iris is located.

In other Gozer news, before this appointment the vet did a blood and urine work-up. Since we don't know anything about Gozer's history we elected to do the geriatric blood panel because it gives more information. Overall, everything is ok. However, there are two results that are concerning.

First, they found triple phosphate crystals (also known as struvite crystals or magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals) in her urine. It's possible that she has a few bladder stones but since she's not having any problems urinating we're just going to keep an eye on her. 

Second and more concerning is that her thyroid levels were low. I'm actually not surprised about this since starting early last summer she started having problems going on long walks to the point of having to stop and rest after about 40 minutes and walking very, very slowly after that. She also starts panting after going up the stairs - she really doesn't have much stamina. And then there's the little matter of the weight she's gained that she hasn't been able to lose. She's lost and gained the same 0.3kg several times over the last few months. All these signs point to low thyroid levels, or hypothyroidism.

We could have done a more comprehensive thyroid panel right away but since we had planned to waist for three months to re-do the main thyroid test, I decided that it would be better just to wait and see what happens. If her thyroid levels are still low (and I expect they will be), then we'll do the more comprehensive panel. Even if she does have hypothyroidism, she's managing just fine right now.

So I think that's it for now - our little Fluffybutt has a cataract and some possible health issues. I wish she was perfectly healthy but how many dogs out there are perfectly healthy? Besides, it's good to catch these sorts of things earlier, when there might be something we can do about it, then wait until the issues were affecting her and any treatment is drastic.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 Grammy Awards Red Carpet

I know it's taken a while, but I think it's been worth the wait: here's the red carpet post for the recent Grammy awards!

One of the most interesting things about this red carpet is that CBS (the network that televises the show) sent out an email describing a dress code for the event, apparently in response to lawsuits about indecency on television. People were asked to :
Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered. Thong type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack. Bare sides or under curvature of the breasts is also problematic. Please avoid sheer see-through clothing that could  possibly expose female breast nipples. Please be sure the genital region is adequately covered so that there is no visible “puffy” bare skin exposure.
I don't know how I feel about the dress code. I think it's ridiculous that many women feel they need to show off their bodies. On the other hand, I think if a woman is comfortable in her own skin, why shouldn't she dress in a way she likes? Then I think that I don't much like censorship in any form... but at the same time, I don't necessarily want to see everything a person has to offer.

Interestingly, it seems that no one was sent home to change even if they wore something that violated the rules. What's the point of a dress code that isn't enforced? That makes no sense to me.

Anyways, let's get on with the show. Happy reading!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The dryer saga continues

In last Saturday's episode of The Dryer Adventures, we were left with a rescheduled delivery date because the dryer hadn't been received at the distribution center. After we spoke with the distribution center and rescheduled the delivery for yesterday, we received the automated call from the delivery people indicating that they were on their way. Confused, since they weren't supposed to be delivering anything, we called the delivery number but they had no explanation for the call.

It turns out that the delivery people thought they still needed to pick up the dented dryer and they showed up to do that. Of course we sent them away because we don't want to be without a dryer.

Fast forward to yesterday, when we expected the delivery to arrive between noon and 5pm. I'd called the night before to confirm that they were not only delivering the dryer but also picking up the dented dryer because at this point I believe that could happen. Imagine our surprise when we received a call from our salesperson at about 9:30am to tell us that his manager informed him (on his day off) that the dryer hadn't been received at the distribution center.

Honestly, I thought that he and his manager had received the note from last week and didn't really believe that the dryer wasn't there again. I figured that the dryer would still arrive in the afternoon because how could it not have been received again? We had to take Gozer to the ophthalmologist that morning (more about that in tomorrow's post) and I left early so that I could be home by noon in case the dryer really was going to be delivered.

As it happened, I could have stayed at the appointment because the dryer really didn't arrive. At least no one came to try to take our dented dryer away! The department manager called yesterday afternoon to tell me that she is investigating the location of our dryer. She'd hoped to hear something yesterday but didn't think she would and she's off for the long weekend so she's going to call me back on Tuesday with the information. We have tentatively scheduled the dryer to be delivered this coming Friday between noon and 5pm and we'll reschedule it if necessary.

We'll see what happens. We'll have a new and undented dryer someday, I'm sure of it.

In other news, I'm working on the Grammys red carpet post and I expect to have it up tomorrow. I know, I'm slow, but you don't mind waiting, do you?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Signing up to be an organ donor

Organ and tissue donors are always needed. However, the process to sign up to be an organ donor has changed a few times over the last few years. It used to be that we ticked off a box when applying for either our driver's licenses or photo health cards and the information was printed on the back of that card. For a while we filled out cards and kept them in our wallets.

Now there's a new organ donor registration process here in Ontario. We have to register online, through a ServiceOntario kiosk, or by mail with our health card number. I understand that this might make the process easier but it's frustrating that the process keeps changing. There are people carrying around organ donor cards who think they're registered but that's no longer true.

I strongly believe in being an organ donor. I don't know if my organs or tissues will be wanted because of the mets and the sarcoidosis but according to the frequently asked questions, a pre-existing medical condition does not preclude anyone from donating their organs or tissues. The final medical team will determine which, if any, organs and tissues can be used.

Therefore, I've gone ahead and registered as an organ and tissue donor. Wherever you are, if you want to donate your organs and tissues after you die - to give the gift of live and health to someone else - then be sure to register yourself. It also doesn't hurt to tell someone about your wishes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Garments and prosthetics

I planned to work on a Grammy red carpet post today but I noticed that my arm was a bit swollen. I'd walked Gozer while Ian was away and at one point she pulled on the leash hard enough to hyper-extend my left arm. My original breast cancer was on my left side and they took out lymph nodes in my left armpit. When they take lymph nodes out from that location, lymphedema - or swelling - of the left arm is a side effect.

I've had lymphedema show up in my left arm before. Luckily, it's mild so my arm and hand don't swell up too much but when it does show up I wear a compression sleeve on my arm and a compression gauntlet on my hand.

So what does this have to do with hyper-extending my left arm while walking Gozer? Well, as the arm started to heal, it swelled up a bit. I noticed a bit of swelling yesterday before bed and was concerned enough to measure my arms. I don't wear the compression garments at night, though, so I made a mental note of the swelling and went to bed.

This morning my forearm and hand up to the knuckles were all swollen so that I couldn't fully bend my arm or close my hand. Out came the compression garments. I wore them while making dinner and learned a valuable lesson: if you chop onions without protecting the fabric compression gauntlet, that gauntlet will smell like onions.

In addition to wearing the compression garments I've been trying to massage my arm to encourage the lymph fluid to flow up the arm and down my side. Hopefully the swelling will subside and I can put away these garments. It wouldn't be so bad if they were my skin colour or even the same colour. There's a company out there that makes printed sleeves in a variety of patterns. I'm thinking of getting a set so that my arm will look interesting when I wear these garments. Since the lymphedema is rearing its ugly head, it would be prudent for me to wear the garments when I fly and I might like something a little more stylish.

In other news, although I was happy with the breast prosthetic that I bought, it's a little bit large and doesn't fit quite right. I've been thinking that it would be great to get one custom-made to be symmetrical and to fit to the shape that's there. It turns out that this is actually possible! There's a company in Toronto that makes them (and another company! it seems Toronto is at the forefront of custom breast prosthetics). I'm going to contact them and find out how long it could take and what kind of costs I'd be looking at. I'd love to be symmetrical again.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weather and tv

We haven't had strange enough weather lately, I think. To make up for that, the temperature will rise through the night and in the next 24 hours we'll get freezing rain, rain, and snow on top of the snow we got on Friday.  Wait a day and the weather will change again, I'm sure.

Ian's flight ended up terribly delayed on Friday. It was supposed to arrive at Pearson airport in Toronto at about 8pm. Instead, Pearson grounded all flights at their origins until 8pm (and later 9pm) because of the storm so Ian's flight sat on the tarmac for two and a half hours after he boarded - after it was already an hour and a half late.

When they finally landed, three and a half hours later than scheduled, there was no gate available for them so they sat on the tarmac for about an hour waiting for one. After getting gate information, the plane taxied to the gate only to find out that there was no ground crew to bring the plane in or get the baggage. The plane sat 100ft from the gate for over two hours waiting for ground crew to arrive. Ian finally made it into the airport just after 3am, over seven hours late, and he didn't get home until 5am.

At least he made it home. Other people's flights were cancelled and couldn't get home until today and he had enough batteries in his tablet, PSVita, and Kindle to keep himself entertained on the plane for the ten hours he was on the plane.

I'm watching the Grammys tonight. I missed the first half-hour because I was watching a recording but that's ok. The show is always entertaining what with the musical performances and all the musical people. It looks like people wore some interesting outfits and I'm looking forward to reviewing them in the next red carpet post.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Snow snow!

It's a winter wonderland out there! A winter storm came through and dumped a ridiculous amount of snow on us. This evening the snow, when shovelled, was over Gozer's head! My rough measurement showed that we got about 15" or 16" (37-40cm) of snow but the news outlets are saying that we only got about 12" (30cm) we got a bit more: 17" (43cm). That's a crazy amount of snow to fall in just one day! I think the snow has stopped falling and is starting to drift now.

Walking Gozer has been an adventure today. This morning we had about 8" (20cm) on the ground and almost none of the sidewalks were cleared. We tried to walk on the sidewalk but I got tired trying to break a trail and she got tired bounding from spot to spot (although she looked super-cute doing it!). We ended up walking in the ruts on the road in the opposite direction as traffic. Fortunately there was almost no traffic out there so it was safe enough but we kept the walk short.

This evening's walk was also short because not all of the sidewalks were clear - some had only been shoveled once and some not at all - and there was too much traffic for me to feel safe walking her on the road. She was able to do all of her business this morning but not this evening so I might take her out before bedtime. She's looking a little more restless than she usually does so might benefit from going for a short walk. We'll see - it's supposed to be cold and windy out there and I don't really want to go outside. But it's not all about me, is it? :)

Our neighbour has a snowblower and he cleared our driveway this morning and again this evening. I'm really grateful to him for doing that because I can't shovel that much snow and Ian is out of town. He's actually on his way back right now although the weather has definitely interfered with his travel plans. He was supposed to be home by now but the flight out there was almost two hours late waiting to be de-iced and then his flight back sat on the tarmac for almost two hours. Apparently the Toronto airport is delaying inbound flights before takeoff because the of the weather.

At this point, Ian's flight is scheduled to touch down at about 11pm and be at the gate by 11:30pm. I hope that his flight isn't delayed any more and that he's able to get home tonight. If the roads are really bad then it might be better for him to stay at the hotel at the airport rather than trying to get home. Of course I'd rather he came home, and I know he wants to come home, but I want him to be safe, too.

It's supposed to be clear and not snow tomorrow so hopefully the roads and sidewalks will be cleared up. We're expecting our dryer to be delivered tomorrow and with luck it'll actually happen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

More dryer adventures

Getting a new dryer has turned out to be less easy than we thought it would be. We thought that after the actual purchase went so well, the delivery would be a piece of cake.

Ha. The delivery people did get there on time, which was great. However, they were unhappy that Ian was reading the contract he was asked to sign and tried to pressure him into just signing it. Apparently they never drop anything, you see.

They do forget to deliver some parts, however, and they also forget to install the dryer properly. The dryer we bought was supposed to come with an interior drying rack and we didn't receive it. The dryer also has leveling feet, which they did deliver but which they didn't actually install.

As Ian was installing the leveling feet, he noticed a giant dent in the back of the dryer and scratches from the dryer being installed without the feet. The delivery people may not have dropped it but someone definitely did. Even though the dent doesn't affect the functionality of the dryer, since we paid for a new dryer I want a new dryer in perfect condition. I called customer service, explained the situation, and they were very accommodating. They said that they'd send a message to our sales associate and that he would arrange for a new delivery and for the current dryer to be picked up.

On Sunday I got a call from a different sales associate who said that our sales associate wouldn't be in until Tuesday but that he (the guy phoning) had ordered a replacement dryer and had requested an extra quality check before it could be delivered. He said to go ahead and use the dryer we got because they don't want us to be without a dryer. He said that our sales associate would call on Tuesday to confirm the delivery time - and here it is, just after 9pm on Tuesday, and I haven't heard from the sales associate.

At least the dryer, even with a big dent in the back, dries clothes quite well. Someday I hope we'll have a lovely new dryer without a dent or scratches on it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Talking about our dryer

Our new dryer arrives tomorrow! I'm thrilled that we'll have a dryer that works so that laundry takes less time.

When we bought the dryer, the salesperson made arrangements for the delivery people to take our old dryer out to the curb to be picked up with our regular garbage collection. However, garbage collection is tomorrow morning and we don't want the dryer setting out there all week. Even if we were allowed to do that, but we aren't - bylaws prohibit us from putting garbage out in front of our house when it isn't our night.

Both Ian and I separately concluded that we needed to put the old dryer out at the curb tonight so that it could be picked up tomorrow. It took hardly any time to get the dryer out there; Ian mostly did it himself with me helping a bit to bring it down the stairs. Ian put the leaking cooler out there, too.

Imagine our surprise when both the dryer and cooler were gone within an hour! There are pickers that drive around the night before garbage day looking for good stuff and I guess our dryer and cooler qualified. I'm actually happy that they picked up the dryer because I'm quite sure it can be refurbished - I just didn't want to pay for it to be done. I also didn't want to see it go to a landfill. I don't love it when the pickers drive around (I find it creepy) but I do love that they took the appliances at our curb.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Small changes on the way

We bought a new dryer to replace our old one and it'll be delivered on Thursday. We'd hoped to get a dryer that matched our washer, which we bought when we moved into the house. Unfortunately, while the style of dryer is still available, the colour we have ("night sky blue") has been discontinued. We didn't want to spend a lot of time shopping for dryers so our choices were between getting a matching style but a non matching colour or the upgraded version of our current dryer.

We ended up getting the updated version of our current dryer because it has a hamper door. This means it opens downward and can be used as a platform for sorting laundry. We love this door because some of our tops have to be hung up to dry and we can plop the laundry on the door and pull those ones out. Our washer and dryer are in the mudroom coming in from the garage and trying to sort the laundry straight out of the washer ends up with laundry all over the dirty floor.

In other news, I'm an Auntie again! Ian's brother and his wife had a baby girl on Tuesday. It's quite exciting to have a little person in the extended family.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A bit of this and that

Today was my first metalsmithing class in ages. I'd planned to go to the session last fall but I wasn't up to going to any of the classes. I feel like I'm doing a lot better and I've been looking forward to getting back into metalsmithing. Because I've done literally nothing at all with metal since last summer (except for one open studio session in December) I figure I'll start by just working on the class demos instead of working on any actual project.

A friend and I are also going to take an online class on making a felted cloche hat. We're going to dye our own wool and everything! My friend is also going to teach me some quilting stuff in exchange for me teaching her some sewing stuff. This year appears to be shaping up to be my most creative yet and I'm excited to see what comes out of it.

In less positive news, our dryer doesn't seem to be working. I went to put a load of laundry in the dryer and thought the light was burned out because it wasn't on. Unfortunately, the dryer wouldn't start so I ended up having to hang all of my laundry. I checked the breaker and it hadn't popped so we think electricity is going to the outlet but we don't have a multimeter to test it. Our contractor neighbour will have one so I'll ask him to check whether there's power at that outlet; if there is, then we're buying a new dryer. We wouldn't want to spend money on a dryer only to find out that the problem is with the outlet!

UPDATE: The outlet is working, so the problem is with the dryer. Sigh. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Going to the vet

It's freezing out there, with windchills around -25C which just feels cold. Gozer isn't getting very long walks because it's much too cold out there for her even if she did like wearing her booties and her coat fit her properly. Because Gozer is chubbier than she was last year her coat is a little bit snug and doesn't want to stay closed. I need to make a couple of velcro extenders for the coat because we don't have time to go and buy her another one and it's so cold that she's got to wear it.

This afternoon we walked to the vet's for her follow-up visit after finishing all those antibiotics. I thought about rescheduling the appointment but it isn't going to get much warmer until next week and I didn't want to wait that long to take her. So we trudged through the cold and wind to see the vet and it's just as well that we did.

Gozer's goopy eyes have cleared up - yay! - but her ear isn't completely cleared up so we have stronger drops for it once per day for the next nine days. We can go to the vet's for a checkup in two weeks if we want and I think we might want to do that.

The vet was able to express Gozer's left anal gland but Gozer did not want her right anal gland expressed at all, which leads the vet to think that there are still some problems there. We're just going to keep an eye on it for now and if she seems to have problems we'll take her to the vet. Because Gozer is so opposed to having the glands expressed, the vet might need to mildly sedate her to get it done so that she doesn't start associating the vet with the wriggling and pain and scary stuff.

Most concerning is that the vet thinks that Gozer's cataract in her right eye has grown since she discovered it only two weeks ago. There's a veterinary ophthalmologist here in town and the vet suggested that Gozer be referred for a check-up there. Even if the cataract turns out not to be not too big of a deal right now, the exam will provide a baseline. On the bright side, since Gozer is so young she might be a good candidate for cataract surgery. Not that I want to unnecessarily put her through surgery but I don't like the idea of her not being able to see out of that eye for the majority of her life. Of course these are decisions for another day.

Funny that Gozer's issues are all on the right side. I hope that her ear clears up because she's clearly uncomfortable with it. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we're looking forward to the day when it warms up here. We don't like being out in the cold.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013 Golden Globes Red Carpet, Part 2

Here are the rest of the red carpet outfits from the 2013 Golden Globes!

Enjoy all the pretty (and not so pretty) dresses after the jump.

Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 Golden Globes Red Carpet, Part 1

It's been so long since I've done a red carpet post that I'd forgotten how long it takes to do one! While I haven't finished evaluating all of the outfits, I've got through almost half of them and figured you'd like to see my progress so far.

So here you go.... my first red carpet post in I don't know how long. Enjoy Part 1; the second part will be up tomorrow or Sunday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Working on a red carpet post

I'm working on a red carpet post for the Golden Globe awards but it's not finished yet. I hope to have at least half of the dresses (out of about ninety) evaluated tomorrow.

I've actually been quite busy lately. I had lunch with a few friends yesterday that I hadn't seen for a while. One of my friends brought her ten-month old daughter with her. Apparently no one other than her mother can hold her... except for me :) I have a face that's proportioned like a baby's's face: round with features close together. I couldn't hold the baby for very long but she was comfortable with me for a few minutes, anyway.

I've been a bit tired lately because I've been up early to help Ian give Gozer her eye ointment and ear drops. Gozer doesn't mind the eye ointment, so much, but she definitely does not like getting the ear stuff squirted into her ear; she does not like it at all. Her dislike for the ear drops is mitigated by the pill covered in peanut butter treat she gets afterwards. Fortunately I only need to get up early for two more days.

Gozer and I have been going on walks in the afternoon because it's been so nice out. I think she's missed going on afternoon walks and we've both been enjoying the slightly warmer weather. Going on a longer walk in the afternoon when it's warmer is nicer than walking later when it's cold out. As well, she gets a chance to sniff more when she walks with me than when she walks with Ian (whether I'm there or not) in the morning or evening.

Hmmm, I feel like I've been really busy but it seems that I haven't done all that much. At least I'm doing something, right? Tomorrow you'll get to read my thoughts on the Golden Globes dresses!