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 :)