Friday, December 30, 2016

A proper subscription box!

I've (finally) added a subscription box over at the side there so that you can be notified when I've written a new post instead of having to check back all the time. I don't see myself posting every day so I don't think you'll be overwhelmed with posts. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Consultation for a new treatment

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I meant to post more but then it got away from me. So much of this blog, in the early days, was to keep my family updated about my life but now I mostly keep in touch with family via social media. The other main purpose of this blog was to chronicle my life with cancer and there really hasn't been anything new on that front.

Until now. But it's a good new thing! Sort of. 

What's happened is that the metastatic cancer spot on my sternum showed additional takeup on my annual bone scan in August over the August, 2015 scan (the one from the previous year). The way the scan works is they inject me with a radioactive tracer which settles in my bones. Areas where there's more tracer have additional takeup, and this means that some kind of activity is going on there. We redid the scan in November and it showed the same amount of additional takeup over the scan from August, 2015.

Between the scan results and the fact that I've been experiencing additional pain in my sternum over the last eight months or so, it's reasonable to conclude that my spot is starting to be active again. There are no other spots showing up in any other area: the only active area is this spot on my sternum.

So my oncologist suggested that we see if we can get rid of it with a type of focused radiation called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) (aka stereotactic ablation radiotherapy, or SABR). In this treatment, the tumour/lesion/spot is basically burned out and because the radiation is focused, there isn't as much damage to surrounding tissue. My cancer centre recently got the equipment to do this type of treatment so it could be done locally. She sent me for a consultation with a radiation oncologist, who I saw today.

I am a candidate for the SBRT because my sternum hasn't received the maximum lifetime dose of radiation. Apparently, although SBRT is in use throughout the body - including in the brain, liver, and lungs - and it's been extremely well-studied in all those places, it's less well-studied in bones. This doesn't mean that it won't work, just that the benefits and side effects aren't quite as well-understood. I didn't see this as a reason to not do it. 

Benefits of the treatment is that it'll take my spot out, which will reduce the amount of metastatic cancer in my body. Yay! The radiation oncologist also indicated that I should see reduced pain in the sternum after the initial spike. Yay again! Side effects of the treatment include fatigue, initial increased pain, and possible tissue damage. Side effects from that tissue damage depend on which tissue is damaged, but can include heartburn, lung damage, rib damage, etc. One other side effect is that my sternum will become very fragile so it could break more easily. 

The radiation oncologist has to check what doses I've received and where and make up a plan for me but she thinks that I'll get one or two treatments. I'll need a CT scan for positioning (applying radiation has to be a very thorough and detailed process to minimize tissue damage.

I'll be posting updates about the this treatment and side effects so watch this space for more details.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gozer update

It's been a while again, hasn't it? Pretty much all of my time and energy has gone towards Gozer and her training. She was having a much easier time at night once we stopped making her sleep in her crate. She's been sleeping on a comforter on the floor that used to be on our bed so it smells like us (even to the untrained human nose).

I forgot to give her the Clomicalm late last week and we've had some problems with her being restless and demanding to sleep on the bed beside me since then. We've also set up an exercise pen (xpen) in the bedroom so that she can become desensitized to it. We're both going to be traveling in a few weeks and Gozer can't just sleep any old place on the floor while we're away, so we're hoping she'll sleep in the xpen. Before we can get her to sleep in there, she needs to see it as just another piece of furniture.

We've also been working on training Gozer and getting her used to me moving away from her while she's in an xpen in the great room. Training is a lot of a work! Fortunately, Gozer's doing well. One game she really loves is Find It, where we put kibbles under a 500mL yoghurt or cottage cheese container (or two) and she has to sniff them out and get to them. She is very good at turning these containers over. Of course this means that these containers aren't safe on the floor because she'll try and find kibble under them.

I hope that Gozer continues to improve. At least we have an awesome (and very patient) trainer helping us with Gozer. She's made this training easier than I thought it would be and she's got good tips and ideas.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bark bark bark bark

Have I mentioned that Gozer is barking at night? Sometimes she only barks a little at around 1am and then around 5am, and sometimes she barks a lot - the night before last she barked continuously from 11pm until 7am - but she barks at night. It's exhausting for all three of us.

I don't know exactly when the barking started - I'm too tired to remember much - but I do remember it was around the grooming before last, which was a couple of weeks after we got the new bed. The new bed is higher than the old one so it's possible that part of the problem is that she could no longer see us at night. It's also possible that something freaked her out at the groomer's (they put her in a crate for part of her visit there). It's possible that her cataract is bigger, which means she's not seeing as well at night. There are a lot of possible reasons for the barking. I think something - any one of those possibilities, or something I haven't thought of - triggered the night barking and now we're in this terrible cycle that we just need to break somehow.

It's not like we haven't tried to stop the barking. We've tried:
- moving her crate into a different spot in the bedroom
- moving her crate into the living room (where it was when we first got her)
- playing doggie sleepy music
- putting a thundershirt on her
- keeping a light on
- keeping the lights off (including closing the door on the pepper seedling lamp)
- tiring her out with a brisk walk before bedtime

Nothing really helps. She just keeps barking: barkbarkbark pantpantpant barkbarkbark pantpantpant barkbark in this frantic barking and panting cycle all night long. Ian's parents succeeded in shutting her up by playing late-night talk shows but that required them to also be awake and that's not a long-term solution.

I took her in to see the vet today because we're at our wit's end. All three of us are exhausted. The vet thinks thinks that there's a separation anxiety component to this and that we need to stop it as soon as possible. Therefore, we're going with a multi-pronged strategy involving pheromones, drugs, food, and training.

The pheromone is Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP), which is a synthetic version of the one mommy dogs send out to calm their pups and that has apparently been shown to calm some dogs. At this point, I figure it's worth trying because maybe it'll work with Gozer. I bought an Adaptil plug-in diffuser that we're putting near her crate, a spray that can be used on both her bedding and thundershirt, and a collar for when she gets to stay somewhere else.

The drug is Clomicalm (clomipramine), a tri-cyclic antidepressant, which will help to reduce anxiety in general. I don't love giving Gozer drugs but it's clear that she's distressed and unhappy and I want life to be good for her, too. We'll wean her off this drug as soon as possible after the situation is under control.

The food is Royal Canin Calm, a food that boosts serotonin production and that should help to reduce anxiety. It's the same manufacturer as her current food and is a urinary-reduction food like her current food.

The training is separation-anxiety reducing training, which means that I need to work on getting her less attached to me, getting her more independent and more confident by practicing more basic training (stay and come, for example), and to break the associations with bedtime. Normally with dogs that have separation anxiety if their owner leaves, the owner breaks the associations with leaving by doing parts of the leaving routine out of order or without leaving, and then leaving the dog for longer and longer. So we'll (or I'll) need to practice the bedtime routine all out of order and at weird times of the day. This is not going to be easy, because she barks when we leave, too. But let's get the night barking problem under control first.

The vet also suggested moving the crate back into the bedroom and to raise the crate so that she can see us at night to eliminate that part of the equation. We're trying that tonight.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Metal forming classes

I spent the last week in Albuquerque at Rio Grande, my favourite jewellery supplier, taking classes forming metal using miniature stakes. The classes used the super-awesome Fretz hammers and stakes and were taught by Bill Fretz himself! That probably doesn't mean anything to you but he's one of the "rock stars" of the business, and the hammers and stakes he's designed are the best. The opportunity to spend a week learning from him how to use the hammers and stakes he designed to form metal was just too good to pass up.

Albuquerque is located in a high-altitude desert and it was very hot and windy. The plants were quite different from what we have in Southern Ontario - I had no idea that yuccas grew so tall! - but they were beautiful in their own way. I spent my last morning there at the local botanical garden in the Southwest US section but those are pictures for another post.

Today I want to show off what I made during the week. We practiced on circular tubes of varying widths and diameters; most often, we sawed the finished forms open to make cuffs. We used brass for almost everything. Almost all of my pieces still need polishing - but these were metal forming classes, not metal polishing classes, and I wanted to make the best possible use of my time. I can polish things at the studio if I want to.

In the first class, Forming metal with miniature stakes, we learned how to control the hammers - not only to hit what you're aiming for, but how to hit with the right amount of force - then how to make concave forms, how to make convex forms, and how to add fluting (ridges).

Chantelle's projects made in Forming metal with miniature stakes class
Back row, L-R:
- learning hammer control by planinshing (hammering lightly using overlapping blows to smooth out the metal and harden it) on a cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 2" diameter blank
- a concave (also known as anticlastic) cuff made from the same blank
- a wider oncave cuff made from a 1 1/2" wide by 2 1/4" blank
Front row, L-R:
- a large convex (domed, also known as synclastic) unopened cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 2 1/4" diameter blank
- a small convex ring made from a 1/2" wide by 1" diameter blank
- a convex fluted (ridged) unopened cuff made from the 7/8" wide by 2" diameter blank
- a small concave ring thing whose sides have been completely folded over made from a 1/2" wide by 1 1/4" diameter blank
Not shown:
- a wiggly convex fluted form (I forgot to bring it home)
For reference, the background plaid has a repeat of about 5 1/8" in each direction.

Whew! We did a lot in those two days!

In the second class, Continuing metal forming, we focused mainly on fluting: adding it in different directions, to different shapes, and we used fine silver for a couple of pieces.

Chantelle's projects made in Continuing metal forming class
Back row, L-R:
- a concave fluted unopened cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 2 1/4" diameter blank
- a 2 1/2" diameter bracelet made by closing this wiggly 1 1/4" wide by 8 1/2" long blank into a ring, making it concave, and then folding the sides over to meet
- a wide flat unopened cuff with fluting running around the cuff whose sides were flared upwards, made from 1 1/2" wide by 2 1/4" diameter blank
Front row, L-R:
- a 2" diameter disk that is domed and then fluted
- a slightly convex fine silver cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 6 1/2" long blank that is closed, formed, and then cut open
- a wide convex fine silver form with fluting running around the piece and the sides flared upwards made from a 1 1/4" wide by 6 1/2" long blank that is closed, formed, and then cut open
For reference, the background plaid has a repeat of about 5 1/8" in each direction

We didn't do as many pieces over these three days because the fluting takes quite a bit more time to do than it does to make a convex (synclastic) or concave (anticlastic) cuff.

I loved these classes, although I found the week exhausting. Hammering and learning are both very tiring! I really, really, really love the process of forming these pieces and I will be purchasing the equipment to continue learning. I may end up practicing in copper instead of brass, just as I've been doing with the foldforming. I don't know exactly where these techniques will take me but I am bursting with ideas and I'm excited to get to work on realizing them.

(updated to include starting blank measurements and background repeat, as well as formatting).

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Met Gala 2016 Red Carpet

The Met Gala is the annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume. Each year the Institute hosts an exhibition based on a theme, and the Gala is the opening night for the exhibit.

This year's theme is Manus x Machina: Fashion in the age of technology. Now that's an exciting theme, isn't it? Technology plays an integral role in clothing production but at the couture level, technology is less present. This exhibit "will explore how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear." according to the exhibit home page.

Anna Wintour chairs the Gala and determines everything from the guest list to guest arrival times; see this article for an excellent description of what she does. People from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada are also involved in the event and therefore, many attendees wore Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Prada.

Many of the Gala attendees dress to the theme, although some choose just to wear a formal outfit. Many appeared to interpret the technology theme as either "futuristic" or "armour" and so there are a lot of silver sequinned outfits. Others clearly stuck to the "fashion" part of the theme, and many of those outfits sport a lot of feathers. Apparently nothing says "fashion" like feathers.

Regardless of the adherence to the theme, the outfits worn at this event were so interesting and unusual that I wanted to comment on them. I didn't include every outfit that appeared on the red carpet; a celebrity wearing a pretty dress is just not so interesting to me, especially when there are so many other interesting and unusual outfits to look at.

See the ones I included in this picture-heavy post after the jump.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Another successful visit to Ren's

Gozer wanted to walk to Ren's this afternoon. At the point where we can either take the path that eventually leads to Ren's or the path the skirts the Blue Springs Pond basin (which is a former quarry), she wanted to take the path to Ren's. I, on the other hand, wanted to take the other path because it leads to home more quickly. A walk to and from Ren's is at least 90mins, plus the time in the store.

Gozer tends to pull on her leash when she wants to go somewhere. I used to try to drag her in the direction I want to go, which resulted in her digging in her heels and pulling even harder. These days, I stop, face the direction I want to go, plant my feet, and hold the leash around my bellybutton with my arms close to my body while saying "no". I give the leash some very gentle tugs to indicate that we can move on but we don't start walking anywhere until she lets the leash go slack and gives up. Yes, it can take some time but eventually she will give up.

What often ends up happening is that she'll walk a couple of feet and then veer off in the direction she wants to go. I then stop again, repeating the same maneuvers as above, and wait until she's ready to go. If it ends up that she takes a while to go where I want her to, and that we have to make multiple stops to wait for her to give in, so be it. I'm finding that the longer we do this, the shorter the time until Gozer gives up.

Anyways, so we didn't walk to Ren's this afternoon but I did tell her that we could go after we got home and we ended up driving there after dinner. She had a lovely time sniffing around and getting treats from the cashiers. She really liked those treats because she ended up getting four of them.

There were two other dogs in the store: both were boxers, and one was pulling at its leash to see her. The first time we saw them, she turned away and so we ignored them. Later on she wanted more treats from the cashier, who was talking to the boxers' owner, and she went closer to the boxers although didn't get close enough for sniffs to be exchanged. The one boxer was lunging and making noise and Gozer was cringing away from it so I took her away. She relaxed quite quickly and continued sniffing around.

We left because I got bored, not because she was upset, although we were only there for 20mins or so. I ended up buying her a new squeaky that had a good loud sound but was different than her other loud squeakies. She carried it to the cashier and out the door so I think she liked it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Spring is here! The plants are coming up, leaves are starting to come out, we're starting to see flowers, the chipmunks are back, and there are birds everywhere. I love putting seed out (both in the feeders and thrown on the ground) for the birds and chipmunks and watching them eat and hop/run around.

We have at least two juvenile chipmunks in our yard. Sometimes they'll stuff their cheekies side by side but often one will chase the other away (only for the other to watch and re-appear when the first one leaves to bury the seeds. I expect to see quite a lot of sunflowers later in the spring.

Even the grackles are funny. I think it's mating season because I've seen them gather giant silver grass leaves as nesting material. I also saw one sit on a hanging coir pot and do this thing where it would puff up its feathers, make a squawking noise while deflating the feathers, and the pluck at the coir. It was as though it was showing other grackles that it was a good mating choice because it had such great nesting material.

There are a ton of robins around which Gozer loves to chase. Sadly, they can outsmart her fairly easily without even having to fly away.

The daffodils are flowering, as are some hyacinths, and there are some other little blue flowers that we have that I don't recognize.

It's definitely a time of growth and renewal; every day there's something new to look at.

Of course with spring comes yard work. At least this year the ground has been fairly dry so I've been able to get out and do yard work; in past years, it's been so wet that I've had to wait and do everything all at once. Right now I can do a little each day and that's good. Even so, the work is hard. I've been trying to take it easy but I managed to hurt my back, which in turn has made my hip and leg hurt like crazy. I'm having to walk with my cane, which I definitely don't like. It'll get better as I get used to the work and as my back heals.

Monday, April 11, 2016

More foldforming fun

I was in the studio the other day playing around with a different type of foldforming: line folds. Line folds are ways to make raised lines on sheet; on the one side, it looks like square wire has been soldered to the sheet, and there's a groove or channel (depending on the depth of the fold) on the other side. They can also be made narrower at one end and wider at the other. They're a lot like pintucks, really.

Line folds can be made the full length or width of the sheet or can take up only part of the sheet, and they can overlap.

So here are some practice line fold pictures:

Simple line folds that overlap, from the top.

The same simple line folds, from the other side. You can see the grooves that these lines make. You might notice different colours showing up on this side; some artists make these colours happen deliberately. It's a pretty effect.

Two short full-length line folds and one that's centred on the sheet. It isn't terribly good; when I made the fold I hammered too much and ended up pinching some of it out, making it uneven and a little wonky.

My centred line fold, which looks a little wonky from this side. But look how lovely that fold on the left is!

The center fold is a basic line fold and the two on the right and left are variable width folds. The one on the right worked out really well; see how the line looks so sharp at the top and more like a bump at the bottom? The one on the left is ok but it's too sharp at the bottom.

So... I don't know why this picture is rotated but I'm leaving it as-is. The variable fold that was on the right above is now on the bottom. I could probably flatten these out even more.

Because line folds have a fold (pintuck) on one side and a groove on the other and can be made variable width, they remind me of the veins on leaves. So I started playing around to see whether or not I could make some things that sort of look like leaves. Here are my attempts.

So it's possible to make folds that stop at other folds, and that's what I've done here. I know it's a bit hard to see, but what I did here was make the line folds, texture the piece, and cut it out. The effect is ok but not great because the texturing with the hammer made the folds wonky.

The back side of the folds (which, if this was a real leaf, would be the front side, and the folds would all stop short of the edge and would be slightly wider towards the bottom or intersection point).

Here I tried making the line fold first and then texturing it. The texture looks fine but while texturing, the piece distorted and made the line fold wonky at the bottom. If it hadn't folded over and I could have centred it when I hammered it open, it might have made a nice-looking fold.

As you can see, the groove part looks just fine - it's the other side that doesn't look so good. I actually love the colours that I got on this side when I annealed this piece.

So then I tried texturing first and then making my fold. Here's the textured piece; the texturing affected the shape of this piece (it was originally much squarer)

Here's the finial product, from the top, with a variable line fold. I think it worked out pretty well, although the line should stop short of the end. I like the texture.

Here's the leaf from the bottom, after pickling. It worked out pretty well, I think.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Taking Gozer to Ren's

This afternoon I took Gozer to Ren's, a local pet store. She likes going there because she can sniff lots of things she's not allowed to have - like rawhide and beef pizzles - and smell all the different kinds of food they carry. Sometimes she gets to meet other dogs there, and she also usually gets treats from the people who work there. In the spring and fall we can walk there (it's about 45mins each way so we don't do the walk when it's too hot or cold) but I needed to buy birdseed and there's snow and mud on the ground.

Things didn't go well the last time we were there. There had been a dog who was unhappy and making sad noises, which bothered her, and then she was surprised by a big dog coming in. She ended up peeing on the floor. I felt really bad because I had seen that she wasn't happy but I was trying to get my shopping done and so I kept her in there too long. At the first sign of distress - that time, lowering herself and moving much more carefully as well as showing the whites of her eyes - I should have taken her out of the store but I was more focused on me than her. That was a mistake, and I decided that I would do things differently the next time because I don't want Gozer to be so upset that she pees on the floor.

This time, we went in the afternoon because I knew that it wouldn't be busy. Before we went in, I decided that I wouldn't try and do my shopping while she was with me; instead, I would watch her and at the first sign of distress, I would put her in the car and go back and get the bird seed that I was there to buy. I wasn't sure what signs to look for, exactly, but I decided that if her behaviour changed at all that she would leave.

This plan worked really well. She happily sniffed around the whole store twice, getting two treats in the process, when all of a sudden she started panting. I know that she pants when she's nervous or upset so I took her out and put her back in the car. Another owner said that his German shepherd wanted to meet Gozer but since Gozer doesn't normally like big dogs and she was exhibiting signs of stress, I nixed that meeting. When we got home, we had snuggles in front of the tv and she seemed happy.

A note about treats there: I know she's not supposed to eat pretty much anything but I figure that a couple of small treats won't be that bad and they make her visit much more pleasurable. I want her to associate Ren's with happiness and treats are part of that. Besides, Gozer knows that she gets treats from each and every cashier; in the past, she's barked at the one cashier out of three who hadn't given her a treat. It's pretty funny to watch.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Foldforming project

(updated with a couple of links and some more words at the end)

I've recently become interested in forging silver and copper, which is basically the process of using a hammer to move the metal into the form you want. At some point I'll be wanting to do things like make bowls from a single sheet of silver but I need to perfect my hammering technique before I get on with something like that.

You'd think hammering metal would be easy but there's all sorts of things to consider like ergonomics including how to sit and how to hold the hammer (especially important for me because of the tendonitis in both my wrists and the lymphedema), how to control the amount of force in each hammer strike, and how to strike the metal in the right place.

In the meantime, I'm taking a Craftsy class on Foldforming, hosted by the inventor of this method of manipulating metal. It involves folding metal in different ways, hammering part of it, and then opening up the fold to make a unique, nature-inspired piece. Because there's so much hammering involved, I'm getting to practice hammering.

Recently, I made what they call a Rueger fold (here's an example from this online tutorial), and I took some pictures of the process that I thought I'd share with you. These photos came from my phone and are uncropped because I'm super-lazy. See the pictures after the jump.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

ZZ Top

This past Wednesday we saw ZZ Top in concert at the Centre in the Square, with opening guests Tim Montana and the Shrednecks. Normally we like seeing shows in this venue because the sound is so good but this time the balance was off. It was as if the instrument volume was at 11 and the vocals volume was at 6 so we couldn't really hear the vocals. Although they modified the vocals volume to about 8, the sound still wasn't balanced.

Adding to the balance issues is that ZZ Top's voices are a bit rough. They've been together for 46 years so it would be surprising if their voices weren't rough but it would have been nice to hear them a little better. Of course the main reason to see ZZ Top is the bass and guitar playing, which was awesome. Their voices may not be what they used to be, but their playing hasn't deteriorated at all.

They played all of their hits as well as a few new songs. It was neat to see some of their synchronized moves when they were playing, too, because that's part of what I expect to see from them. They did bring out the fuzzy guitars but they didn't spin them.

The opening act was pretty good except that we couldn't hear the vocals. They were pretty entertaining to watch and I did like their cover of Lose yourself because their music has a country sound to it.

It turns out that we're old fuddy-duddies now because we brought and wore earplugs during the show. We'd found the music during the Heart concert to be really loud and hurt our ears so we decided that avoiding ear damage was a good thing. The earplugs actually helped us hear the vocals as well because they blocked out some of the other sounds and made it possible to hear some of the nuances in the guitar playing. Wearing earplugs was definitely the right choice for us even if we did look a little silly.

Overall, the show was ok. If the sound had been balanced it would have been great but with those problems it wasn't as good as it could be. It's still early in their tour, though, so hopefully they'll get the sound issues worked out for their next stops. If you like ZZ Top and they're playing near you, I'd recommend seeing them. And if you want to wear earplugs, that's ok too.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Can I have some cheese to go with my whine?

Getting cavities filled has never been one of my favourite activities. I know it has to be done so I do it, but I don't love it. I bring this up because I had a cavity filled on Wednesday. The process of putting the filling in was fairly uneventful but the freezing experience was a bit different.

My dentist is nice about providing a topical anaesthetic before injecting the novocaine and injecting the novocaine slowly so the novocaine doesn't hurt quite so much. What was odd was that the freezing lasted a really long time. I was injected at 1pm and the filling was done by 2pm, and the dentist said that I would be numb for 1.5 to 3 hours. I was actually numb until 8pm (!) which is a crazy long time.

Also, here we are two days later and the injection point is tender and sore. It feels kind of like it's bruised, which is something that's never happened to me before. A quick search showed that bruising is a rare but possible complication of novocaine injections. Who knew?

I know I'm whining a bit but I'm also quite tired. Ian's been away this week and I'm looking after Gozer on my own which is a lot of work. Also, since she was groomed last Friday she's been growling and barking at night. She's barked very early (7am, 5:30am, 6am) the last three mornings because she really really needed to go pee - after growling at different times through the night. I have no idea why she's so disturbed but it's leaving me exhausted. At least the bits of sleep I'm getting on the new bed are restful... I just need more of it.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wildlife and bed update

Living within a kilometer or so from the river it isn't so unlikely that we'd have some wildlife in our neighbourhood. We have lots of birds, of course, including the wild turkeys, as well as skunks, raccoons, black/grey squirrels, little red squirrels, and chipmunks. Oh, and bunnies. Lots and lots of bunnies. Apparently they're very fond of the raspberry canes in the winter; they chewed ours down and left bunny poo through the entire raspberry bush area. There's so much there that Gozer doesn't even try to eat it.

We've also got coyotes. There was an article in the paper recently about a woman in our area whose dog was taken and killed by coyotes. It turns out that the dog in a house behind us and over three houses was also taken (and later released, mostly unharmed) by a coyote.

Our neighbour saw the coyote walking along the fence and the dog owner heard her dog squealing. Gozer isn't really small enough to be thought of as prey but I wouldn't want to see her get into a fight with a coyote. We always take her out on a leash in the dark (the paper said that coyotes won't attack dogs near humans) but she sometimes goes out in the daytime on her own.

Our neighbour also told me that there had been a deer in our yard about three weeks ago! The other neighbour saw it on our street and then saw it jump our side gate. It's only a chain-link fence and it's 3 or 4 feet high but it never occurred to me that deer could or would jump fences like that. I wish we'd seen it.

Oh, and a bed update: we've had the bed now for a few nights and we like it. It is very tall as the platform gives the same height as a boxspring would. Add to that the giant euro pillow top thing that makes it so soft and it's so tall I can't rest my butt on it while also keeping my feet on the floor.

My lower back and hips are very happy sleeping on the bed although my upper back has been a bit stiff as it gets used to the new bed. That's good, because I'd noticed my shoulders stooping forward a bit and I think it was making me look older than I am. I can feel my shoulders straightening up and I expect the stiffness to go away.

What we really love are the sheets. They're rayon from bamboo in a sateen weave and they're super-soft but also have this weight so that they lay closely on us. They're quite wonderful, and I'm really happy we bought them. The only downside is that they wrinkle like crazy, as rayon (especially woven rayon) tends to do, but if I cared about that I wouldn't let them sit in the dryer. Or I'd iron them.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

A new bed

I thought about doing a red carpet post but I've been having trouble with my right wrist; the tendonitis I had in 1999 appears to be flaring up again. Typing isn't the easiest thing in the world, unfortunately. If the dresses were especially interesting I might have made more of an effort ... but in a way, as designers have more control over what award show attendees wear and as people are more afraid of what people on the internet might say about them, what people wear on the red carpet is so much less interesting than it used to be.

Anyways. Today - finally! - we went shopping for a new bed. We bought our last mattress over a decade ago and it's been on an ikea queen-size 3-part metal futon frame that whole time. The mattress has sagged and every time Ian rolls over at night (which is often), the whole bed sways from side to side. It's like being at sea (or what I imagine being at sea is like, since I've never actually been) but much less regular.

We went to Sleep Country, where we tried different softnesses. We (meaning I) strongly preferred the softest bed, and we both had a slight preference for pocket coils over memory foam. We also discovered that we wanted the mattress on a platform instead of a boxspring because the platform causes the bed to move so, so, so much less when either person moves around. Oh, and we decided on a king size bed, and it'll be delivered on Wednesday.

Of course size we changed mattress sizes, we needed all new sheets and a new duvet. We ended up buying them there because there won't be time to go and buy all of it at a cheaper price somewhere else before the mattress is delivered. All of that - including pillows and mattress and pillow covers - ended up costing about 40% of the total price. We think they may make a lot of money on all of that.

Above I said we'd finally gone shopping for a bed because we've needed one for a very long time. My back and hips are bad and our bed makes it worse. Add to that the aforementioned swaying and I haven't slept well in our bed in ages. I'm very much looking forward to the new bed, even though there's so much work to do to prepare.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gozer's new bed

Gozer got a new bed today! A friend of mine had beds made for her dog and they looked really nice so we decided to have one made for Gozer, too. Gozer and I picked it up today and we're thrilled with it, as you can see:

Gozer on her new bed. I just put it on the floor and she made herself comfy.
The person who made it doesn't sew professionally but she did a great job on this bed. The seams are straight and finished cleanly, the zipper is installed beautifully, and the plaid is matched. I'm really impressed by the work she did. She was worried the bed would be too big for Gozer but it's a good size because Gozer likes to stretch out.

The maker didn't want to charge me much for this bed - under twice the materials cost - but I thought this bed was worth more than that. A store-bought bed like this would cost at least $100 so a handmade bed should cost more than that. I ended up paying her just over double what she asked for because I thought that was the minimum fair price for the bed taking into account the quality of craftsmanship. I'd have paid more but she really didn't want to take what I gave her and I don't think she would have taken more than that.

Ian says I'm the worst negotiator ever because I wanted to pay more than I was charged but I firmly believe in charging a fair price for one's work. She might not be a professional sewist but she did a professional-quality job and should be compensated fairly for that.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More details

I apologize if this is TMI again, but I've done some research about the incontinence I've been experiencing and I wanted to share.

It seems that there are several kinds of incontinence but two main types: stress and urge incontinence. Stress incontinence is the kind that happens when one sneezes or coughs and leaks a little. That's not what I'm experiencing. No, I seem to have urge incontinence, which is characterized by a sudden urge to go followed by leaks. The urge can happen as the person fits the lock into the house door, or has just pulled into the garage, or stands up from a sitting position. That describes me to a T.

It turns out that this condition is worsened both by caffeine and drinking a lot of liquid at one time. My morning routine, which includes two large cups of coffee and some diet cola, is therefore almost certainly directly contributing to my problem. I'm going to have to change that routine, obviously. There are other things - Kegels and bladder training, for example - that can help but there's no real treatment.

Apparently some conditions can contribute to the problem although often no reason for it is identified. Therefore, it's usual to run tests like a pelvic ultrasound and bloodwork to make sure there are no physical problems. I think I have a requisition for each of those here somewhere. After I get those done, I guess I'll make an appointment with my family doctor just to make sure there's nothing going on.

Oddly, this only showed up when I made the painkiller transition in 2014. For a long time it was annoying but lately it's been a much bigger problem. Today has been better for me but I don't think this issue is something I should ignore.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Getting older

You know what sucks? Getting older. I am now a woman of a certain age and, like one in three women of this age, I've developed some light bladder incontinence. Apologies if this post is TMI but I'm this is something that is rarely discussed - and yet it seems to be a fairly common problem. And it's quite a frustrating problem to have, I can tell you. Having to change one's underwear and pants multiple times in a day just because of this has become annoying.

I know I should probably see my family doctor but given that the rest of my health is good I expect that this is just one of those things. I should also probably do Kegels (I even bought some things that are supposed to help do them properly - which would probably be easier to use if I didn't also have vaginismus), but that's a long-term solution and I need something for the short term.

I do have adult diapers; I bought them when I was having diarrhea in the summer and had to do a bone scan where I had to lay still for 30-45 minutes. I wouldn't have been able to get up off the table if the diarrhea struck so I wore a diaper for the scan. As it happened I didn't need it but I was very glad to be prepared. I don't actually want to wear diapers all the time.

I know that there are bladder leakage pads out there, and I guess I need to go ahead and buy some. However, I'm concerned that these pads aren't environmentally-friendly. I know it might sound silly, but there's enough stuff going into the landfill and I don't love the idea of contributing to it if there's another option. (I do understand that sometimes disposable diapers and pads are necessary, and that's ok; I don't judge other people - I just judge me).

So now I want/need to find some kind of environmentally-friendly pad that can be used for bladder leakage. I know reusable menstrual pads exist (and if I still had my period, I'd use them) but I don't know whether they can also be used for bladder incontinence. If you know of any good products, please let me know.

I have to say that this is not how I imagined getting older would be. Not that I expected it to be all roses and sunshine but I didn't expect this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Amy the documentary

The other day I watched Amy, a documentary on Amy Winehouse. It was a very compelling film. Interestingly, instead of using talking heads to describe events, it showed video footage - both amateur and professional - and used voiceovers from each person to tell her story.

Her story was so sad. At 9, her dad left and since she was a daddy's girl, she was devastated. She never really developed good coping skills; she drank and smoked weed and was bulimic. When she had writer's block, she drank heavily.  She was an incredibly talented singer and songwriter but she really wasn't ready for what happens when a musical act becomes big. There were the exhausting tours, singing the same songs in the same ways over and over again and there was the paparazzi. The film shows just how awful they were - she couldn't leave the house without being followed and photographed.  

Seeing the difference between the fun, beautiful, engaging girl that she was and the slow, out-of-it, used up person she became drove home just how far she had fallen. The documentary is very powerful, and if you're at all interested in her life it's definitely worth watching. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Ghostbusters and The Dark Crystal

Cineplex is hosting their annual The Great Digital Film Festival at select theaters across Canada, where they show a number of older movies in digital format. Part of this year's lineup includes Ghostbusters and The Dark Crystal, two movies we wanted to see. Therefore, this weekend we ended up seeing both movies in the theater.

Ghostbusters is one of Ian's favourite movies ever and we thought that it would be neat to see the movie in an actual theater. We were right :) The movie has held up fairly well because it looks more like a movie set in a particular time period than one that is unbearably dated. Some of the special effects are a bit dated and the music is obviously from that era but aside from those two points, it's still a pretty good movie.

It also turns out that I had never seen The Dark Crystal. I know what you're thinking - how could I have lived my life to this point and not seen it? I don't know the answer to that but it's fixed now. Since it was also playing as part of the festival, we figured that we might as well see it in the theater, too.

From a technical perspective, The Dark Crystal is an amazing movie. The puppetry is fantastic; it was clear that the puppeteers had really studied animal movements and reproduced them accurately, making the different characters look alive. For example, the way the Master settled his head on the pillow looked looked the same as when Gozer rests her head on something. The swamp scene where everything is moving slightly was also particularly realistic. The pacing of the story is slow but it fits the story and I didn't mind that at all.

The festival runs until February 11 and tickets are all no more than $6.99. If you're interested in any of the movies they're showing, why not see them in the theater?

Cineplex is also using selected theaters for other specialized purposes, including showing operas, ballet, and some Shakespearean plays on their big screens. Who knew you could get so much culture from the same place you can see crappy movies?

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Witness

This past weekend Ian and I played a new video game: The Witness by Jonathan Blow. It's a 3D open-world maze-like puzzle game that is set on an island composed of a variety of environments. When you start the game, it's as though you've been dropped into this other world and you have to figure out how things work on your own.

Because so much of what makes the game enjoyable is discovering these mechanics for yourself, I don't want to get too specific about the puzzle mechanics. I think I can give you a general overview, however.

Most of the puzzles are made up of some kind of grid with at least one start point and at least one end point. The goal for each puzzle is to trace a correct path (sometimes more than one correct path is possible) between a start and an end point, and every correct path is subject to constraints (ie conditions that must be met). Some of these constraints include avoiding a particular segment in the path, being required to use a particular segment in the path, using the path to divide one type of object from another, or using the path to keep objects of a certain type together. The way these constraints are combined and and defined creates new puzzle mechanics throughout the game.

As each new puzzle mechanic is introduced, the game does a pretty good job of teaching you how that particular mechanic works, all without giving verbal or written instructions. Although the constraints can be fairly easily defined, the puzzles themselves could be quite difficult. Quite often we used pen and paper to figure out how to solve the puzzles.

In addition to having great puzzles, this game is gorgeous. Each environment is beautifully designed and rendered and is a pleasure to look at and explore. Speaking of the environment, I can give you one hint: everything is specifically designed and placed and nothing is random.

We loved this game: really, really, really loved it. If you like solving maze-like puzzles, we highly recommend The Witness to you. Currently it's available for the PS4 and Windows.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Social media

A friend of mine had her Facebook account disabled because she wasn't using her real name (as an aside, while I understand the real name policy, sometimes it's a pain) so I followed her to Instagram, setting up an account there, because I didn't want to lose touch with her.

I'd never been on Instagram or spent much time there but once I got there I figured I should post some pictures and get involved, kind of. Pretty much all my pictures are of Gozer looking cute (which I think is all the time, although Ian says I see her through a mommy filter). I tell you, the first time I got likes from people I didn't know I really understood the appeal of social media. All I have to do is use hashtags that people follow and they look - and sometimes like - my photos. I can be part of a community.

Instagram isn't like Facebook, in that you don't have to know someone to like their photos or vice versa. Of course you can follow people, and they can follow you, but things don't have to work this way.

I realize that for almost everyone this is not a new concept but it was new for me. Odd, I know. I don't post a lot but I'm enjoying the thrill of connecting with people I don't know.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cancer news

Now for my cancer update. It's going great, honestly - my scans have all showed nothing new and my tumour markers have stayed pretty much steady. At my most recent oncology appointment this past Monday, my oncologist and I decided that I would see her every six months instead of every three just because everything is so stable. I'll see her next about two weeks after my scans in August, which will be around seven months or so instead of six but I think that will be fine. Of course if I notice anything unusual, I'll call for an appointment.

She said that my metastatic cancer is oligometastasis because just one organ (in this case one bone) is affected. They're starting to discover that people who have oligometastasis can receive curative treatment and live for many years after diagnosis.

I'm thrilled, of course! This is wonderful news. At the same time, I do feel sort of weird about it. I have a friend who is not doing well (they're talking about months instead of years left for her) and lots of other friends who also aren't doing well... along with a ton of other friends who have died. They're going through so much with treatments and whatnot and I'm just not going through all that. I feel like I don't fit in with people who have metastatic breast cancer because things are just going so well for me.

I've made a chart of my CA 15-3 tumour markers from the beginning; they're still oscillating in a fairly narrow range.

So there you have it; cancer-wise, things are awesome right now!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My eyes

Did I mention that I was seeing a new optometrist? My previous optometrist was fairly far away and was always, always running late. My new optometrist is much closer and is on time. Plus they do more tests there, including a visual field test and optical coherence tomography, a test that measures the retinal nerve fiber layer. I see my optometrist every six months in part because my prescription is so high.

One thing this optometrist has discovered is that my eye pressure (the technical term is intraocular pressure) is also high. On the automatic test, my eyes register a pressure of about 25 (12-22 is apparently normal), and on the manual test, my eyes register a pressure of about 22. My optometrist says that my eyes are deep-set and so they don't register properly on the automatic test, giving a higher-than-normal reading, but my eye pressure is still at the high end of normal during the manual test.

We've done the optical coherence tomography each of the three times I've been to this optometrist and the results have been unchanged in the year and a half. This is good: high eye pressure can mean glaucoma, but the retinal nerve fiber layer doesn't show any glaucoma. Therefore, my optometrist has diagnosed me with ocular hypertension (high eye pressure).

My optometrist and I talked it over and we've decided not to treat the ocular hypertension right now but to just watch it. I'll continue going in every six months and if the pressure gets any higher or the retinal nerve fiber layer shows any changes, we'll treat it then.

So that's two new things going on: my stomach issues (which flared up again last night and today) and this ocular hypertension. Lucky me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hello again

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I don't know why I haven't been writing here. Well, I was sick with stomach problems due to long-term Celebrex usage coupled with short-term Naproxen use. The Naproxen was a bad choice on my part but it worked so well to deal with pain and I'd been on the Celebrex for so long that I think I thought I was invulnerable to possible stomach damage. Stomach damage is, of course, a side effect of long-term Celebrex usage - it shows up in something like 25% of people who take Celebrex for a long time like I did.

So I had terrible stomach pain for quite some time. My family doctor put me on Dexilant, which helped somewhat, and later on Zantac, which helped a lot. Now my stomach feels all right most of the time - unless I eat too much or eat something too spicy.

After I went on Zantac, I somehow messed up my other medications and forgot to take my Cipralex (aka lexapro - an SSRI antidepressant). After maybe a month of not taking it, I started experiencing severe anxiety and depression. I had a hard time leaving the house because I became overwhelmed whenever there were people around. I found myself descending that spiral of depression, where I thought I was worthless and untalented and that every creative idea I had was pedestrian and uncreative and ugly.

It didn't help, either, that I was experiencing this terrible depression and anxiety just before the five-year anniversary date of my mom's suicide. I was a mess.

Fortunately, I went back on the antidepressant about a week before that anniversary date and started feeling better right away. It's taken a while to feel like myself again but I'm getting there now.

There's doctors appointments and whatnot to talk about - things are going well on that front, don't worry - but that'll be all for now.