Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014, hello 2015

It's almost time for a new year. Where does the time go? If I'm not careful, it just slips by without my noticing it.

We spent Christmas at Ian's parent's house. Well, it was fake Christmas because it was two days late; Ian had had a cold and we didn't want to infect his dad so Christmas was postponed until Ian was better. We had lots of delicious food and Ian's mom had decorated the house and yard so beautifully and I don't think any of us really noticed that it was fake Christmas.

We're spending a very low-key New Year's Eve. Ian's playing the video game he got for Christmas (Dragon's Age: Inquisition) and I'm helping by pointing out things the character can pick up. It's fun for both of us.

I have no idea what's in store for next year. This past year was pretty good (neighbour issues aside) and  I hope that next year is even better. I hope that your next year is even better than this last year. Happy New Year!  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Book of Mormon

We saw The Book of Mormon this week. When it won all those Tony awards I knew I wanted to see it so when I heard that it was coming here, I was very excited. Our seats were close to the front but off to the side which isn't perfect, but allows us (Ian) to have more leg room.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the show. I knew it was a musical, and I knew it was funny, and that it was created by the creators of South Park. I figured that it would probably skewer Mormon religions - what with the title being the Book of Mormon and all - but it didn't, really. It did poke fun at the religion but not that much. I expected some inappropriate humour and it was also present but it wasn't as widespread as I thought it would be.

In many ways, the subject was fairly serious: two new Elders are sent to complete their two-year missions in Uganda. There, they arrive in a village where all the women are either circumcised or are going to be, almost everyone has AIDS, and people are oppressed by a very nasty general. One Elder undergoes culture shock while the other, who is an awkward, incorrigible liar, tries to bring the villagers hope (and tried to convert them, of course) by telling them his version of the Book of Mormon.

One thing I liked about the humour in the show was that it was generally very gentle and subtle and it wasn't mean. Even when they were making fun of Mormons, they weren't saying that the people or the religion was bad; they were just pointing out some inconsistencies but they weren't doing it in a negative way. I actually learned a thing or two about the history of Mormonism from this musical. Who'd have thought?

The actors were very good and I was quite impressed with their performance. The only quibble I had was that the sound levels for two of the performers was off just a bit and we couldn't hear them singing as well as we could the others. Aside from that, everything was smooth and well-executed.

Unlike at other shows we've attended recently, a physical program was given out. Aside from the venue and production company ads, there was only a single advertiser in the program: the Mormon church. I guess that makes sense.

I definitely recommend this show for adults only - this is not suitable for kids as there is quite a bit of swearing and some sexual situations. The Book of Mormon is funny, over-the-top sometimes, and there was a joke that was repeated once too often for my taste, but underneath all that it felt very serious, honest, and real. If this show is coming to your city, try to see it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gozer's birthday and my optometrist

Time flies! Two Three years ago today Gozer joined our family. She's settled in so well that it's as if she's been here forever; I can't imagine life without her, now.

Update: Gozer came to us in 2011, not 2012, so we've had her for three years - time really does fly!

 We're celebrating by giving her an extra cookie and by giving her a replacement moo cow squeakie toy. Moo cow is a plush toy with a small round squeaker in it - the kind that's in most dog toys. Normally Gozer doesn't get plush toys because she eviscerates them but she loves them so much (probably because she can eviscerate them) but for her "birthday" we made an exception. I gave her moo cow this morning and she bit through the squeaker within one minute, after which she started gnawing on the plush legs and head. This is a toy that won't last long.

 I also saw an optometrist today. I'd been seeing my old optometrist for years and years but she's located in Uptown Waterloo, which is about a 20 or 25 minute drive away, and she's always, always, always running late. The last time I was there I waited for 40 minutes before I was told that she would be running even later; I rescheduled the appointment and walked out. Then I went looking for a new optometrist who was closer to home.

 My new optometrist is located at River St and Victoria Rd, about a 5-10 minute drive, a 45 minute walk, or a 15-min bus ride (including walking time to and from the bus). When I showed up this morning, they were running early due to a cancellation. The people were all very friendly and helpful. I loved the optometrist. Her eye prescription is just a little bit worse than mine at about -10 so she understands the particular challenges of having really bad eyes. She said that she will always dilate my eyes when I see her, which is fine with me.

We talked about laser surgery to correct my eyesight and she said that it's possible for people with our prescription (depending on the thickness of our corneas), but she wouldn't recommend it for me because of my cancer and the treatment. My eyes are already dry and the surgery can make them drier which in turn could impede healing. I don't need to add that kind of burden to my immune system, so no eye surgery for me. She did give me some sample contacts to see if I like the way they feel. It would be nice to be able to wear contacts for parties or Halloween or anytime I wear makeup. When she checked my vision, she saw that my left eye's prescription has improved ever-so-slightly.

It turns out that when they did the puff test to measure the pressure in each eye, the pressure was a bit high which is new for me. The optometrist then used one the new-to-me machines (she has more advanced equipment than my old optometrist) to take a picture of my optic nerves and to measure the thickness of my retinas, and it showed that there were some areas on my retinas that were thicker than the statistical norm. She isn't saying that I have glaucoma right now but she's concerned that I might be developing it. Therefore she's asked me to do a vision field test next week. If the results indicate some problems, she'll see me at least every six months; otherwise, it'll be once per year. My old optometrist used to do a puff test (although I haven't had one done in quite a while) but didn't have one of these scanning machines so I'm really happy that I've switched.

 I spent some time afterwards looking at their eyeglass frames. The people didn't really leave me to do that on my own, I think because some frames were tucked away and I wouldn't know where they were. I didn't buy anything this time but I'll keep looking. My glasses aren't going anywhere so it makes sense to me to have the prettiest, most flattering glasses possible.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The end of neighbour problems... for now

I've been wrapped up in my own self and life for the last few weeks and I've barely noticed the world passing me by. As I mentioned before, we'd had work done on our property - which looks great, I'm just waiting to get pictures for you - and as I expected, we ran into problems with the neighbour when we got to the driveway.

The situation was worse because Ian was away and I had to deal with this neighbour myself and this is something I suck at. I'm not good at dealing with conflict, and I'm especially not good at dealing with someone who is being aggressive: I have a tendency to match aggression with aggression, especially when I'm feeling threatened or upset. At one point I was ready to move and investigated all the properties available in this area.

The neighbour stopped all work for an entire morning demanding that we do this and that and blustering about. He lied about where the property line was located and he lied about having had a permit to change the drainage on his driveway. He told me that he has a right to drive over the part of the driveway in the city easement area - the part that would have a sidewalk and boulevard, if we had them - because it's not owned by us. I still don't know if this is true but based on his other lies, I have my doubts. During this conversation he threatened to park on that part of our driveway (I checked and that is definitely illegal; he's not allowed to park on the boulevard area and he's not allowed to block access to our driveway). He also threatened to come onto our property and rip out the work we'd had done if he didn't like the drainage (I checked and that's also definitely illegal). He ended by telling me that we're enemies now.

I'm so grateful for the foreman, who was the one person would could talk to our neighbour. Seriously. He could even tell our neighbour that he was being an asshole and that if a neighbour was wasting his guy's time the way he was wasting theirs, he'd freak out. I gave them a big tip - or what I thought was a big tip - just for that. Nevermind that I also loved the work they did.

So far, the neighbour has left us alone. I had a chat with one of the other people on the street and apparently they're not happy with him (and vice versa, of course), either. They had their basement converted to an apartment and asked him for a quote. However, he gave them just a final figure with no breakdown of what different parts would cost, and although they asked him to break it down, he didn't. So they went with a different company and our neighbour freaked out. It's gratifying to know that I'm not alone in having problems with this neighbour.

One does have to wonder, though, why someone who makes their living as a contractor (as our neighbour does) would waste so much of another contractor's time. That doesn't seem to me to be a good way to conduct one's business... but what do I know? I'm a woman, and he doesn't deal with women.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oncology appointment

I saw my oncologist today for my regular checkup. Everything is great. My CA 15-3 tumour markers, which had risen slightly the last two times, dropped back down to 36.

My scans were clear as well; there are no new lesions and everything looks the same as the scans I've had over the last few years. In fact, I'm doing so well that we're going to stop the denosumab, which is used to build up my bones. My oncologist figures that I don't need it since the cancer only affected the one bone and that bone is healing.

 We're also talking about removing my port-a-cath. I've had it in for 6 or 7 years and I'm now only actually using it to have bloodwork drawn every three months. My veins are bad but I think they can sustain bloodwork every three months if I were to have the port removed. So we'll see; I don't need to make a decision right now but it's something to think about.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Neighbour problems (again)

We've hired a company to replace our window wells, fix the path on the side of the house, and make our driveway narrower. They started work this week and have finished putting in the stone window wells. We're quite pleased with the work our contractors have done; it's nice, they're tidy, and they put away their work neatly at the end of each day. They're personable but not chatty and prefer that I leave them alone and if there are problems to talk to the project manager.

Unfortunately, things are not going smoothly with our neighbour - the one we've had problems with before. We figured he'd be upset because he wasn't doing the work for us and we were right.

He's already stopped by earlier this week to tell our contractors that they were doing their job wrong and we were crafting an email to ask him not to approach our contractors directly. Today he flipped. Our contractors were cutting the capstones for the window wells and it was really windy so the dust was blowing into our neighbour's yard. He came over and spoke to (yelled at?) about how the dust was blowing by his office windows and they had to stop it. Apparently they offered to cut the stones somewhere else but that wasn't acceptable to him.

Then he rang the doorbell and told me the same thing about the dust and his office. I told him that it was windy and the dust couldn't be helped. He said that he builds a little house thingy and cuts in there and that I had better stop the dust blowing into his yard. OR ELSE.

I told him that just as it was unacceptable for me to talk to his guys, it's unacceptable for him to talk to my guys and to please come to me instead of them. Then I told him that he should know that we are having work done on the driveway on the property line and that the weeping tile may need to be adjusted. He said that they had better not mess things up OR ELSE. "Or else what?" I asked, and his answer was: "You'll see". That freaked me out.

After all that he asked why we didn't talk to him about the driveway. All I could say was, "Really? Really? After everything that's happened, why would we do that?"

I admit that I didn't respond well to him and I know I made things worse between our houses. When I'm confronted with anger I respond in kind, which makes me exactly the wrong person to deal with him. I do feel compassion for him because I know he wants the work and I think he was hurt that we didn't give him the opportunity to bid on the work we're having done. That compassion doesn't change the fact that I'm also worried that he'll do something. I don't know what, but something... maybe sabotage the work we're having done?

I'm especially worried about what's going to happen once the contractors get to the driveway. There's a Rogers cable going to the neighbour's house that's under our driveway somewhere and there's a very good chance that the the contractors will cut that cable... making our neighbour's internet go out. He has an office at home and needs that internet and if it's cut then he will be very, very, very angry. We don't think Rogers does locates because we've been told that they prefer that the cable just be cut and they'll repair it but I'll check and see.

I thought about calling the police about the ("don't mess things up OR ELSE" with a "you'll see" explanation of the or else part) because I felt threatened but then I thought that he'd be even angrier if I did that. My metalsmithing instructor said that I should call the police just so that if something happens, there's a record of it.

I don't know. I want nothing to happen, but in that last kerfuffle he told Ian that he has to be aggressive and that he can't show weakness in the construction industry... and that kind of thinking doesn't really lend itself to leaving things alone.

I hate neighbour disputes. I wish I'd handled things like this better. And I wish we had a different neighbour.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How does our garden grow?

It grows weedy and overgrown, for the most part. But it's our yard, and I know you all want to see it.

Finally, I've got the yard pictures done. I'm not sure that they're in completely the right order but they're all annotated, I think. So here you go - there's a lot of them so they're after the jump.

Monday, September 22, 2014


I'm still working on the yard/garden post but I was at a conference this weekend and didn't do any work on it. I figured you'd want to know about the conference so I'm updating you on that right now.

This conference was held by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, which is a volunteer-led organization dedicated to people with metastatic breast cancer. This year's conference was held in Chapel Hill, NC so I was there for the weekend.

The conference runs for two days and although I'd planned to go to both days, I didn't make it. I had rented a car and locked my keys in the trunk of the car. I called the rental car company and they sent someone out to unlock the car but it turns out that they still make cars that have no internal trunk release and we couldn't get the trunk open. By the time we figured all that out, the conference was over so I ended up going to the airport early. It was a very long, very boring day.

Fortunately, Saturday's sessions were interesting. There was a talk on molecular genetics that I really enjoyed. It wasn't very detailed but it gave a good overview of the current science and research trends.

The most unforgettable session was the one on pain and sexuality. I expected this to be a session about how to adapt sexuality to the pain but it wasn't that at all. It turns out the speaker is a leading researcher in the area and so the talk was more of how she got the knowledge she did. In all that meandering, I learned a few things:

  • When men have sexual problems, it's often considered to be a physical problem but when women do, it's often considered psychological.
  • Before addressing sexual pain, the cause of the pain - nerves, skin, or muscle - must be determined.
  • Neuropathy can occur in the genital area in the same way as it does in the hands and feet because the nerves are the same size. THIS BLEW MY MIND.
  • Any treatment that can affect the mouth can affect the genitals in the same way because the tissues are structured the same way and are both mucous membranes (she had pictures to emphasize this point). 
  • If the area isn't used, the muscles can atrophy and cause pain, just like they would anywhere else.
  • Dilators don't help all that much; a better solution is apparently a modified Hodge pessary kept in at night.
  • If the skin has a rash or is very delicate use Crisco shortening(!!) to protect it. Crisco can also be used with the pessary and in place of Replens. It works because it doesn't contain harsh chemicals and it doesn't come off easily.
The session ended up being quite funny and informative. I'm happy that I went just for that because it really was informative. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bit of this and that

I'm still working on the pictures of our yard but I've been lazy and haven't finished annotating them all. There are over 150 of them, after all, which is more than even red carpet posts used to have.

I was out weeding in the yard today. I spent about three hours out there and I pulled up around 100 big dandelions and 50 or so baby-sized ones in a 250 sq ft area. There's at least double that area to go but those areas don't have quite so many of these dandelions. I knew the lawn was full of weeds but I didn't realize just how bad it is. I'm trying to get them pulled so that I can rake the lawn to get the growing bittercress and veronica out before reseeding the yard.

Gozer hasn't been feeling terribly well lately. She was on antibiotics for a hotspot which made her vomit. After she went off them, she was constipated for a few days and then yesterday she started having diarrhea. Poor girl. She had diarrhea again today and we're hoping that her system will settle down. We're hesitant to take her to the vet because we don't want them to give her pills and we figure that we can help her with diet. She's already getting half squash for food and if she still has problems tomorrow, we'l give her rice instead of kibbles for the other half.

Well, Ian will give her rice for food; I'm heading to Chapel Hill, North Carolina this weekend for a conference. I'm nervous about going because I don't think many of my friends are going and because Chapel Hill is near Raleigh and that area holds some memories for me. I'm hoping that it'll be a fun weekend and if it turns out to be lame, well, I won't be there that long.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Gozer in the yard

I took a bunch of pictures of our yard and the plants in it yesterday. It was a lovely sunny day so I got some good pictures for you. However, it's going to take another day or so to get the pictures in the right order and commented and stuff so in the meantime, I thought I'd show you some pictures of Gozer, aka Miss Flufflybutt.

Hi mom!

Something smells good over here.

What could have been in this spot?

That smells really, really good...'ll make me smell good, too!!

I am look good, I smell good, and I'm feeling fine. Off I go!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A lot about not very much

There's been a whole lot of not much going on around here. I've been spending time outside in the yard and I've finally started working on the dandelions that have grown to monstrous proportions. Seriously, some of those things, especially around our vegetable garden, are huge! Clearly whatever soil we're giving the vegetables is helping the dandelions.

The leaves are up to a foot long and the root is up to one inch in diameter; the leafmass is almost too big for me to hold when I try to rip them out. I'm not actually able to get the full length of some of the roots out and I know that I'll have to do some serious digging when the leaves grow back. I don't care about that right now; just getting the leaves and flowers out is enough for me right now.

One of the less pleasant parts about clearing out these giant dandelions is that we have an unusual variety of ants in the area. They're called citronella ants and they're named for the smell they give off when they're crushed - it's described as a pleasant lemon scent in places but we think it's more of a cloying, chemical, citronella scent. These ants apparently farm root aphids (aphids that eat roots like dandelions and potatoes but not carrots or radishes for some reason) and mealybugs and their territory extends from the vegetable garden to the fruit trees. Anyways, when I pull out the dandelions in that area I invariably crush some of those ants and the smell just reeks. Blech. I don't think it repels mosquitoes, either.

We'd seen these ants a while ago carrying white things around and we assumed that they were carrying eggs. A bit of research showed that no, those are aphids or mealybugs, and they're moving them so that the aphids eat more yummy roots (and mealybugs eat more yummy whatever) so that the ants can eat the yummy honeydew that the aphids and mealy bugs produce.

It is kind of neat that there are more than one species of ant that farms their food and that they do it in such different places.

I really have been meaning to take pictures of our yard but I've been waiting for good light. If the light isn't good soon I'm afraid that you'll get pictures of a bunch of dead flowers, which are pretty in their own way. Also, our contractor neighbour is mad at me for talking to his employee about the way he was encroaching on our property while parking the truck and then for talking to himself in front of that same employee about parking the truck and trailer in front of the fire hydrant. He also thought that I was stalking him or his employee because I spoke to his employee that one time.

All of that is sort of hilarious in the way that neighbourly disputes often are, but the thing that isn't funny is that the neighbour didn't approach me to talk to me about the problem. Instead, he talked to Ian because this neighbour "doesn't talk to women". He said all sorts of awful, misogynist things to Ian, including telling Ian to control his woman. As if that's even possible!

I did apologize via email for speaking to the neighbour's employee directly and for talking to him about an issue in front of the employee, because underneath all that bluster and completely offensive language I understand that it's important to him to appear to be in control and that my actions caused him to lose face in front of his employees. And it's really no big deal to talk to him directly and privately if I have a concern, although apparently it's much too much to ask that he afford me the same courtesy.

Anyways, the point of that diversion is that because this neighbour thought I was stalking him or his employee, I don't want him to think that I'm stalking him by taking photos of the property. Of course we're also getting quotes for work on our driveway and they're taking all sorts of photos, but that's a bit different. As I write this, it occurs to me that it would be a good idea to take photos so that we have some "before" pictures of the areas that will be changed.

Speaking of getting work done, this neighbour has repeatedly asked us to ask him for a quote before we hire anyone and has been mad when we haven't done that. However, after this whole kerfuffle there's no way I'll do business with him. I can't choose my neighbour but I can choose who I hire, and I choose not to hire people who express themselves in misogynist ways. Even if he was awesome at doing stuff (which he isn't; some of the work we need to have done is fixing work he did for us before), I wouldn't hire him just on principle. I know that this decision won't improve the relationship between the households much (and that he might end up doing petty things like encouraging his guests to flick cigarette butts into our yard as a result), but I'm willing to take that risk.

Hopefully I'll get to take some photos for you this week. We really do have a nice yard even if it is a little overgrown and unbalanced and full of weeds. I'd like to show it to you.

Huh. I sure wrote a lot for not much going on, didn't I? It just goes to show that I can talk a lot about anything :)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Transition finished!

I think the painkiller transition is finally over. We've found the right level of the new painkiller and although I occasionally have twinges in my sternum (which may be related to Gozer jumping on me), I'm not experiencing any real pain.

I've noticed some changes since I've switched painkillers, mostly related to sweating. I know this might be TMI but it's part of the way painkillers affect me. Before, my entire body would sweat. Seriously - my fingers and arms and legs and even my toes would sweat, and I developed little bumps around my eyes from sweat. Because I sweated so much, I drank a lot of water but didn't pee as much as you might think.

All that has changed: I now sweat only in the more normal places - like under my arms and on my scalp - and I pee way more often. My sweat also smells different to me; before, it didn't have much smell but now it smells the way it did before I ever had cancer. So that's a good thing, I guess.

I'm also finding that I enjoy my baths less. I loved taking baths and would take several each day... which, it turns out, wasn't a good thing. A hot bath increases the amount of painkiller I absorbed and then once the bath was done I'd experience withdrawal symptoms (like increased sweating). In other words, I was abusing my painkiller patches. I had no idea that I'd been doing this until I went to have a bath and it just didn't feel the same. I was ashamed once I realized what I'd been doing, and that shame was probably made worse by the fact that I was mildly depressed. At least I'm off the patches now and it's not possible for me to unknowingly misuse my pills.

The mild depression is gone now. My psychologist is away until the end of this next week so I wasn't able to make an appointment to see her. If I'd been feeling worse I'd have asked to see another psychologist in the clinic but I figured I wasn't doing too badly. I'm feeling much more emotionally even and am generally happy now so I think I'll be ok.

I'm really happy that the transition is over. I like that I'm feeling more like a normal person with the pills than I felt with the patches... but mostly I like that the transition is over.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Update on me and Gozer

I'm feeling a bit better now although my digestive system is still not quite right. At least I'm not at the point where my belly and gut are so distended that I can't wear anything constrictive, which is where I was in my last post. I'm also feeling less depressed although I'm still somewhat lethargic.

I haven't called my psychologist yet because I keep wishing that I could just fix this mild depression myself since I have the tools to do it. However, the fact that all of this is related to the change in painkiller medication means that I don't have much control over it. I'll call her tomorrow and set up an appointment.

In other news, Gozer saw her dermatologist last week. The dermatologist was happy to see Gozer looking good and scratching and licking less. We think the allergy shots are helping but we won't know for sure one way or another until Fall. Gozer still has yeast problems so for two weeks she'll receive her anti-yeast pills every day instead of two consecutive days each week. As well, the dermatologist gave us a medicated shampoo that we're to use one to three times a week; on the days that Gozer gets a bath, we're to wash all of her bedding, blankets, leash, and collars.

I also have to keep track of Gozer's itchiness each day on a scale of 1-10 (1 = least itchy, 10 = crazy itchy) and email the results (along with her regular calendar of pills and appointments) to the dermatologist each month. Finally, we decided that we're going to wait until the Fall to change her diet to deal with her food allergies, mainly because we want to give the allergy shots more time to work and make a difference and to get her yeast problems under control.

Gozer doesn't much like getting bathed, especially since this shampoo has to sit for 5-10 minutes before it's rinsed off. She's more resigned to the process than she used to be, although it's difficult to get her into the bathroom where she gets a bath. However, we've discovered that she love love love loves carrots so we grate some up for her and feed her the grated bits as a treat and that keeps her happy.

Oh, and it turns out that she knows the command for "Speak". We had no idea!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A little TMI whine

I've been having to take percocet to deal with the pain because the amount of the new painkiller wasn't enough. I talked to my family doctor's office today and my doctor is going to increase the painkiller amount. 

In the meantime, I'm having to deal with a common side effect of these drugs: constipation. Some (Ian) might say that I'm full of it (ha ha). I know this is a bit of TMI but it's (unfortunately) a fact of life with this stuff. Everything had been going so well for so long that I kind of forgot that I have to make sure that things stay going well. 

I've taken some dulcolax and it'll help eventually right now I'm quite uncomfortable. If this goes on for much longer I'm going to be very heartburny which can be unpleasant for me and anyone I talk to. Gum can only cover up so much, you know? 

Sigh. I'm whining, I know, but I figure that it's important to talk about the stuff that isn't so pleasant, too.

I've mentioned before that I've been experiencing some mild depression with this transition and since it's still going on (it's mild, but it's there) I'm thinking that it would be a good idea for me to see my psychologist. I know I have the tools to deal with all this but I'd feel better if I saw her.

I love not using the patches but I'm not in love with this transition. I'll be very happy once the amount of painkiller is stabilized and I'm back to being my regular happy self.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Regular oncologist appointment

Yesterday was my regular oncology appointment.

My CA 15-3 tumour marker from three months ago was at 43, which is higher than it's been in years but only slightly more than the previous two values of 39 and 40. Since the rest of my bloodwork yesterday was awesome and shows no problems, we agreed that there's no reason to be concerned about the tumour marker value.

It turns out that August will be scan time so I have the bone scan on August 5 and the CT scan on August 18. I'll get the results when I see my oncologist again in October unless there's a reason to be concerned - which we don't expect will happen.

In painkiller transition news, I'm doing ok. I'm definitely sweating less (which my oncologist noticed), and I'm feeling less depressed and lethargic now. I've still got some pain but it's not too bad so I think the worst of this transition is over.

EDIT: I was looking back through my tumour markers and the value three months ago was 32, down from 40 and 39 the three and six months prior to that, so it appears that the values are still oscillating. I'd checked because I was curious about when it had last been at or above 43 and when I discovered that it hadn't been that high since 2007 I was feeling a tiny bit worried. I was concerned that if the marker was starting to creep up, my years of stability might be coming to an end. Now that I know that the last value was 32, that tiny bit of worry is gone.

For fun, here's my current tumour marker graph:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Changing pain medication

I didn't realize that it had been a month since I last posted here. Clearly there's not much going on in my life these days.

One change is that I saw my family doctor last week so that he could see how I was doing and I asked to change pain medication. I'd been wearing the fentanyl patches for some number of years and lately especially I've been getting a heat rash - or prickly heat - under the patches. This happens when sweat has nowhere to go so it goes back into the skin, causing the sweat glands to be blocked and thus causing the rash. The rashes have been getting worse since the brand of generic patch changed but it was happening before that just because I sweat so much.

My family doctor agreed to put me on OxyNeo at about 3/4 the equivalent dose to my patch dose. I have no idea how much of the patch dose I was getting - it won't all go through the sweat or rash, so I don't know if I was getting 100% of the dose. I took the patches off and started taking the new pain medication on Thursday night.

It turns out that I was getting more than 75% of the dose so over the last few days I've been going through some mild withdrawal symptoms. The biggest symptom I had was what I call "woogly back" or Restless Leg Syndrome in my back (apparently it happens, although it's rare). I managed to deal with most of this with percocet in the first couple of days, to make the reduction in painkiller more tapered, and clonazepam in the days afterwards. I've also been experiencing some mild depression and lethargy.

Today was the first day that I didn't have woogles or need to take the clonazepam, and I discovered that this painkiller level isn't enough to deal with my pain. Starting this afternoon, the pain started. It isn't a a stabbing pain, but a light twingy, squeezy pain. Sigh.

So although I was really, really trying to make this level of painkiller work by not supplementing it with anything else, I'm not going to fool around with pain - once pain starts, it's harder to control so it's better to get ahead of it. I called the doctor earlier today, before the pain started, to let him know about the mild withdrawal and that I was doing ok so far but I'll have to call in the next couple of days once I've got the pain under control to see just how much I need to bump up the amount of painkiller.

On the bright side, I'm sweating less and I now definitely know that I still need the painkiller, even though the sternum is healing. I'll be very happy to leave this transition period with its woogles and lethargy and depression behind, however. This hasn't been an enjoyable few days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Still working on the garden

I should take pictures of the garden but I'm going to wait until I'm done planting. I've planted most of the climbing plants now but I still need to plant the hen and chicks (I forgot about them before) and I may have purchased a couple more coneflower plants in shades of red today when I went to get more soil. I love purple coneflowers but I thought the red ones would add a bit more variety.

I've got one of those %&%)@! canker sores again. It's on the left side (of course), in my lower jaw (of course), where the gum meets the cheek (of course) and it's currently about 8mm in diameter. By the looks of things, there's another one forming just to the left of the center along my lower mouth. I wouldn't be surprised if the current one merged with the new one. I'm rinsing with salt water but it isn't helping much. Anbesol (or whatever it's called) does help a bit and I'm putting that stuff on before bed so I won't be woken up by the pain. Because oh my goodness it hurts. Maybe it's time to start brushing with Biotene toothpaste, which is supposed to help with them.

Ian's out tonight and I'm watching this documentary on UFOs and aliens (and the possibility of a coverup). All these people - some of them military - are talking about crafts they've seen and aliens they've seen. The narrator says that people don't want to experience a UFO or alien encounter but I think that would be awesome. Of course there's life out there somewhere although I don't know if (or why) they would be here on our planet. Anyways, if aliens really existed and visited, I'd love to meet them.

Until that day happens, I've got a garden to work on. And a canker sore to heal somehow.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More about the garden

It turns out that taking a day off of planting wasn't such a bad thing. I rested up and was able to get quite a lot planted yesterday: all of the perennials I'd bought (including asters, which I forgot to mention) as well as the begonias, zinnias, and petunias.

I think I've discovered why we had a bit of a "dead zone" on that hill where I planted all of these plants. When we had the landscaping done, either they didn't add new soil or else it's all just washed away and what's left is mulch on top of clay. And rocks. There's no soil to speak of and so no nutrients - no wonder all the plants were dying in that area!

When I planted these new plants, I added what I thought was lots of soil there so that the plants have a chance. Hopefully I've given them enough; I used some 4-in-1 organic soil so there should be something for them. I'm not totally opposed to the use of fertilizers but I'm concerned about their environmental impact and so I'd like to avoid them if at all possible.

This afternoon we got some of the groundcover plants in the ground and I got the salvia planted as well. I think I've just got vines and things that climb or trail left to plant and I hope to get them done in the next two days.

I also cut my lupine flowers down today as they were starting to go to seed and I have so many now (and seeds) that I don't need more. Say what you will about this winter but it made my lupines thrive and it killed off all of my lupine aphids so they're positively thriving.

Speaking of this past winter, it was very difficult for a number of trees and shrubs in our area. Our cherry tree's central leader has started to die off a bit and at least one of our shrubs barely survived. The buds on our weeping willow started to crack open but then stopped and now all of the branches are breaking off. The root stock is doing just fine; it's trying really hard to send growth out. We think that there's growth in the grafted area so the tree might yet be saved but we don't know. One of our rosebushes that had been doing incredibly well last year had to be cut back almost right to the ground.

All through the neighbourhood, trees and shrubs are dead or dying. I don't know if it was the cold or the ice or the snow or what but it really affected things around here. For all I know, this kind of killing winter is actually good for the trees and shrubs because once the dead stuff is cleared out, they all seem to be thriving.

I'm looking forward to getting everything planted in the garden and spending my afternoons puttering around. It turns out that I don't love the hard work so much as I love just walking around, trimming these flowers or pulling those weeds. It'll be nice to be able to be a bit lazy again.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The garden

This last week as I've been working in the garden, I've developed an appreciation and admiration for my sister who works in a commercial bakery. I spend a couple of hours on successive days working in the garden and I'm achy and stiff and sore and ready to stop, whereas my sister works on her feet lifting and moving and weighing things all day every day and has done for years. I'm in awe of her ability to keep doing this work because I'm quite wiped out.

I got the front garden done over the weekend; I planted some verbana, petunias, begonias, and a New Guinea impatiens (the regular impatiens is not available here because it just keeps dying). The flowers are all very similar shades of pink. Although there were other colours I liked, I chose this pink because it's most visible from far away. Ian thinks it's too much pink that's too similar but the flowers and foliage are all different and there's hostas in there to add colour, too. I think it's going to be lovely when everything fills in.

I spent yesterday working in the vegetable patch digging out some grass that had encroached on the patch, clearing out strawberries that had encroached on the patch and the path, clearing out raspberry runners as I see them, adding new soil to the patch, transplanting peppers, and planting some seeds. And pulling veronica weeds from the lawn; they're starting to flower and go to seed and there's quite enough of it in the lawn, thank you.

I still have quite a lot of work ahead of me. I went into a garden centre the other day just to look around and came out with rather a lot of perennials. We have an area at the back of the property that has been taken over by weeds and we want to put non-grass groundcover there so I bought 60 plants for there: 24 thyme, 12 irish and 12 spanish moss, and 12 of something else. Ian is going to help plant those this weekend.

Today I'd planned to plant the other perennials I bought: some more coneflowers to balance out the black-eyed susans, some stonecrop sedum, and a beardtongue (penstemon). Oh, and some hen-and-chicks sedum, which might go in the front, maybe, or in some rocks by the path by the waterfall in the back. I also need to plant the annuals that Ian's mom gave me, which include some red petunias, some zinnias, different kinds of asarina, and some salvia, as well as some pink begonias left over from the front.

However, I decided that I was physically exhausted and needed to rest more than I needed to plant so I did nothing at all. I keep discovering muscles that hurt - I understand why my back might hurt but how does my stomach get sore? And where did those muscles on my arms come from? I do feel better after getting some more sleep and soaking in a couple of hot baths but I'm nowhere near back to my regular self. The plants will be fine for a few more days before I get them into the ground, I think (hope). If I was my sister my garden would be done by now.

Monday, June 09, 2014

My mom's birthday

It would have been my mom's 66th birthday today and I still find myself missing her terribly. Our lilacs are blooming; they were her favourite flower and they remind me so much of her.

As the years pass I wonder when she would have died had she not killed herself. When would I have had to mourn her anyway, by now? Her mom (my grandmother, or Baba, as we called her) lived until she was 84, but she didn't have COPD like my mom did. And if she had mental illnesses, they weren't like my mom's - Baba had lived on her own for years before she was married and she had lived in her house for years before she moved into the home and later died. I don't think my mom loved being on her own in the same way I think Baba did; I think my mom was most comfortable with my dad and was very lonely. I imagine that she must have thought of all these years stretching out ahead of her and being unable to face them alone and lonely.

So would I be mourning and missing her now this year? If she hadn't killed herself when she did, I expect she'd have done it by now unless things changed dramatically for her. I don't think she'd have stayed alive until she died of natural causes so it's possible that I'd be mourning her now. There's something so sad about that, and also something oddly comforting. It's like time has caught up to me now, if that makes sense.

Although I still love my mom and I miss her, she lives on in my memories and my heart. Happy birthday, mom.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Our trip to the UK

We just got back on Wednesday from our three-week trip to the UK. We made the trip because my youngest sister got (re)married and we wanted to be there to see it. I'm very happy that we went because I really wanted to be a part of the day with my sister.  Also, my sister's new husband has a huge family and they were all there for the wedding (they live in the UK so it was easier for them to get there); our family is really small in comparison and not everyone could make it so we, along with my sister's daughter, represented our entire family.

I cried through the whole wedding. I usually cry at weddings - that's just who I am - but this time I was crying in part because our parents weren't there. I really felt the loss of both my parents that day and even now as I write this, tears are coming to my eyes. I guess it isn't surprising that I'd miss my parents so much during a big life event but it took me by surprise.

The wedding was beautiful. My sister and her groom were radiant in their wedding finery and the ceremony was very touching. It was held at the registry office and they had the most beautiful vows! The reception was at a local pub which was fun because it was relaxed and casual. 

It's hard to summarize a three-week trip to another place, especially since we spent time in so many places, but I'll try. We spent our first few days in London near Westminster Bridge and the London Eye. We didn't ride the Eye but I did see Westminster Abbey (it's old and full of the dead), the British Museum (Vikings!!! the actual Rosetta Stone!!!), the V&A museum (beautiful jewellery and clothes and ironwork), the Tower of London (Crown Jewels and old buildings), and parts of central London (full of more tourists than Londoners).

From there we went to Manchester to spend a few days there for the wedding. It reminded me very much of Edmonton for some reason. We didn't do as much touristy stuff there because we spent a lot of time with my sister, her daughter (and I wouldn't have it any other way), and her new husband. I hadn't met my sister's husband before this trip so it was good to spend time with him. He's a very nice guy (with musical talent!) and it's clear that he and my sister love each other very much and are happy together. We spent some time shopping in the central part of the city and around where my sister lives and spending time at her flat. We did see the Manchester Cathedral, which was neat. On one of the days we went to Hope in Peak's Park where we tramped through sheep fields to a couple of caverns (Treak and Speedwell).

Then we were on our way to Scotland: a night in Glasgow and then up to Fort William, where we took the Jacobite train (aka the Harry Potter train) to Mallaig. This was a steam train (they provided the trains used in the Harry Potter movies) and it went over a famous viaduct. At Mallaig we saw seagulls nesting! 

After the steam train we headed down to Edinburgh. I took a day off there, which I shouldn't have done, because it meant that we couldn't go back to Glasgow. We did see Edinburgh castle (very old, lovely crown jewels - called Honours, and lots of people), the outside of the Scott Monument (I didn't want to climb the 286 steps to the top), and we hiked up Arthur's seat

We spent some time in nearby North Berwick at the Scottish Seabird Centre. That was an amazing place! They have cameras set up on the nearby nesting islands so that visitors can look around and see the birds. We also took a boat out near the islands to see the birds up-close. It smelled really bad but it was so amazing to see these nesting birds (mostly gannets but also a variety of gulls as well as puffins!!!!) cover these islands. On our last day there we went over to Falkirk to see the Falkirk Wheel, which is a super-cool replacement for a series of canal locks.

We spent our last night back in London and did absolutely nothing of note because we were tired and it was raining. And then we came home.

A word about our flights: they were both delayed. On the way out, we were delayed about an hour because one of the doors wasn't showing that it was closed. Just after we took off there was a medical emergency on board and we diverted to Halifax so that the person could get proper medical treatment. We ended up landing about an hour and a half late which worked out well because we got into our hotel room right away.

On the way home, the flight was also late. At some point the plane type was changed from a 63-row 777 to a 40-something-row 777 but no one knew that until they got to the gate... and the intercom system wasn't working. So the passengers would get in line to board but about 20% of them discovered that their seat assignments weren't valid, so they had to go and stand in another line to get reassigned and then they had to stand in line to board again. It was a major mess that could have been avoided. We flew Air Canada both ways and I can't help but think that they'd have been able to handle this situation so much better.

We traveled throughout the UK on the train, which gave us a chance to see much of the countryside. It was beautiful. I had no idea that rhododendrons grow wild in the UK, but they do, and they were blooming while we were there. Bluebells were also blooming, as were gorse (related to broom plants), and ferns were unfurling. It was really beautiful countryside. 

This trip, like the one we took to Atlantic Canada, could only be like a tasting menu; we had to pick and choose what we saw. We couldn't possibly have seen everything because there's thousands of years of history there and it would take years to see it all. I guess we did see a lot but I wanted to see more. In my head I could do more but it turns out that I can't do that much. It seems that I have a fairly strict two-hour limit on activities that involve being on my feet and that I need at least two (and preferably four) hours of recovery time after that. This meant that I just couldn't do as much as I wanted to; fortunately, Ian did end up seeing a few things without me so he wasn't completely held back by me. 

We had a wonderful time on our trip but we were very happy to come home. I missed Gozer very much (she was with Ian's parents while we were gone and was happy there after an initial settling-in period) and I get tired of being away from home. I'm thrilled we could go and spend the time there and that we were able see my sister get married. I'm very happy for her and my new brother-in-law.