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.