Tag Archives: Ailments

Time Warp

I feel like I’ve been caught in some sort of time warp. Two weeks seemed to have passed in a flash. I want to thank everyone for their prayers and also  those of you who commented on my last post with your words of encouragement. I greatly appreciate it.

The last ten days or so have been crazy. After the shock of finding out my mother’s cancer was back two weeks ago Monday and her new chemo treatment on Tuesday, we had to come in every day for the rest of the week for her to get shots to build up her white blood cells. Then there were blood pressure issues, which involved much phone tag with the doctor’s office and a new prescription called in to the pharmacy. I also had to set up an appointment for her to get a portacath, and that involved even more phone tag — I’m really starting to see where a cell phone or at least a cordless one would be beneficial. I would step outside to hang out clothes, or just turn off the water and the guy would call and leave a message. Then I’d call him back and leave a message… We did finally get it all settled and she went in Friday to have the portacath placed.

A portacath is a small reservoir and catheter inserted entirely under the skin. The reservoir has a special skin on the top of it that can be pierced by a special needle, which is what they use to draw blood or infuse medications. The catheter runs from the reservoir to a large vein in her neck.

On Friday at 6am we arrived at the hospital for the outpatient procedure. The nurse said I couldn’t come in with her and told me to go home and come back at 10:30am. So I left, went out to the car, parked in the hospital garage and discovered, all out of the blue, that it wouldn’t start. I had to walk almost a mile and a half to her house, to get her car which I then drove to my home. It was God’s provision that I had her purse with me, because that’s where she keeps her extra set of keys. Actually it turned out to be a nice walk, and I enjoyed it. The only downside was that lugging two purses and a bag of books and water did not make my back terribly happy. And when it’s unhappy, it tends to interrupt my sleep…

To further complicate matters, my hubby had left the day before to go hunting and was in the mountains, completely out of contact. He left without knowing when he’d be home… possibly not for several days. Meanwhile, our son and daughter-in-law were due to arrive that same day and wanted to spend time with us/me that night…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At 10:30 I drove my mother’s car back to the hospital and picked her up. The procedure had gone without a hitch and she was doing well. I took her home, and since she still can’t drive (waiting now, for glasses to arrive) I took the car with me to my home.

I prayed that Stu would get a deer Friday morning and come back. That was unlikely, and even if he did, he’d really have to push it to get back in time to visit with the kids, so I wasn’t surprised when they arrived and he wasn’t there; nor was I when he wasn’t back by bedtime.

My twitching back woke me up Saturday morning about 4:30, a time I’ve come to call the carnal hour for the way things that normally wouldn’t bother me get all blown out of proportion. I thought about the car in the garage, and whether security would come and tow it, or vandals would scrawl graffiti over it. Finally I had to put the whole matter firmly in God’s hands. It’s His car, He would have to take care of it. I drifted back into sleep and about an hour and a half later, Stu came in the door — having gotten his deer late Friday afternoon, then working all night to get it out. (He’d hiked in and had to carry it out, all uphill. It took him five hours, in the dark).

On Saturday, after I had taken my mother to the grocery store (except for two small, sutured incisions she was almost entirely recovered from the portacath insertion) and Stu had slept a bit, he and I returned to my car still parked safely and without graffiti in the hospital parking garage — the battery was dead, he jumped it and we went to Autozone and the guy put in a new one. All better. I love the way God works.

Sunday we went to a party at the grand-inlaws’ house in honor of my DIL’s grandfather turning 80. Adam cooked the steaks — they were very good — and Kim made an amazing German Chocolate Cake from scratch. Yummm! We had a really nice time. The kids left to drive back home on Monday.

Meanwhile my mother and I returned Monday morning to the oncology center to try out the portacath for a blood draw. My mother was still losing weight, and the doctor kept suggesting things she “couldn’t” do — things like snack or eat more protein and fat — until he was banging his forehead with his hand. Finally he prescribed for her a medication that is supposed to increase appetite. She took it for about three days, then decided it was making her itch and quit. We had to go in Tuesday and Wednesday for more white blood cell stimulating shots. Wednesday I had a doctor’s appointment of my own as well, then returned home to find a message from Kim that after she and Adam had returned home on Monday night, Adam had gotten really sick and Tuesday night they took him to Urgent Care with a fever of 105. He was given fluids and Tylenol and was told there was some sort of problem with his liver… Liver?! By then the hits were coming so fast and furiously — and obviously — I was almost at the point of laughing. (But not quite)

Now, almost a week later, it turns out Adam had some sort of unidentified viral infection that must be allowed to run its course and from which he is steadily recovering. The liver problem readings were a result of the fact that he’d been vaccinated years ago for Hepatitis B.

Thankfully this week has been much calmer than the last two. Through it all, though I have gotten no writing done, I have continued with The Artist’s Way, with the Lord’s blessing it seems from the way He keeps working not only the daily Bible classes along with it, but other things as well. I even managed to finish reading a novel on Sunday that related in a very weird way. But this post is already too long, so those subjects will have to wait for another day.

Bad News

On Monday I took my mother in for her monthly treatment of maintenance-dose chemo-lite plus a bone-strengthening medication. We always see the doctor first and he had the results from the PET scan she’d had last week. (One which he’d ordered back in June, but which had been denied by the insurance company, thus necessitating filing an appeal before it was accepted). The results were not good. Her cancer is back and this time it’s widespread: spine, skull, clavicle, liver… other places I can’t recall. So he wanted to immediately begin a new regimen of treatment, but they didn’t have the drug he wanted to use.

Since her veins are objecting to being stuck as much as they have been, we decided to come back Tuesday when the medication would be available and do both infusions with one “stick.” The drip of the new drug was so slow (to prevent allergic reaction) it  took three hours. She’s also scheduled to have a portacath inserted before we go back next week for the doctor to check her white blood cell count. She seems to be handling it well. At least as well as can be expected. I was in a sort of shock for half the day on Monday, because while I expected the cancer would return, I didn’t think it would be quite this soon. Even though this is about the same length of time that passed the last time she had treatment and apparent remission and then a recurrence. Of course with the PET scan having been initially denied, we don’t know what the situation was when she ended treatment last summer, but she did enjoy a couple of months of feeling pretty good before things started to go downhill again.

This time we’ll go in every three weeks for the chemo. My biggest concern is her weight. She’s lost thirty pounds since this all began and she doesn’t have much more to lose, but it is extremely difficult to get her to eat when she’s not feeling well. It doesn’t help that she’s a vegetarian who doesn’t eat milk-products, because that makes it harder to slip in high protein/calorie mini meals — people keep suggesting a milkshake but she doesn’t drink milk. Or soy milk. And doesn’t like Rice milk. I’ve offered to come over and cook some meals for her and if she takes me up on it, that might help. We’ll just see how it goes.

So, to anyone who feels led, your prayers would be appreciated.

Another Day I Didn’t Plan

Quigley has some bumps on his head around his ears. He’s had them for a couple of weeks it seems and after several days of waiting for them to subside, or thinking they might be getting worse, and  then wondering what they were, and speculating all over the map, suddenly TODAY I decided they were getting worse.

In my examination I found what I thought was a blob of sap on his neck under his ear, got the mayonnaise to take it off, and discovered the hairs coming off with the mayo and underneath, very definitely a lesion.

So I called my hubby about taking Q to the vet. After discussion, Internet research, and more discussion, we agreed that’s what needed to be done. I called, thinking no way he’d get in today, but… they had an opening in an hour from when I called.

Quigley LOVES going to the vet. He gets so excited. He jumps up on the counter in the reception area, wants to smell everything, jumps up on the counter in the exam room, because he knows right where the treats are, or wants to help with the computer. He jumps up to greet strangers, as well…  He’d really like to get hold of one of those stethoscopes everyone seems to carry around.

Despite all that, everyone seems to love him. He’s very good about holding still for the doctor to examine him or the animal tech to take his temperature. If I could just figure out how to break him of the jumping up on people he’d be perfect.

Anyway, the bumps are not an allergic reaction as we’d thought, but probably the result of bug bites, maybe ants since we recently had a big problem with them, and/or bacteria. The lesion she said was definitely bacteria, so he’s on antibiotic for the week. At which time all the bumps should be gone.

Anyway, we got home around 1, I caught up on all the regular things I didn’t do, ate lunch and then just crashed, that no doubt the result of going to bed at midnight and waking up at 6… so I took a nap. 🙂

The Second Cataract

Well, I didn’t intend to let the entire week pass without posting, but once again, all my time and energy were taken up with the second round of cataract surgery, which began last Tuesday with pre-0p eye drops. Wednesday was the surgery day, across town, and she was a bit more out of it after the sedative wore off than before so I stayed with her til mid afternoon. Plus we had the whole drop schedule to fit in that day after the surgery.

This time I’m not having to do drops five times a day, only three, as my mother has learned to do her own with the drops she doesn’t have to worry about using up. The antibiotic drops, which come in a teeny bottle (“teeny” being smaller than “tiny,” you understand), cost $74 with insurance, and have to do for both eyes. Since she had a history of missing her eye with the drops, and friends told her they measure out the drops on a how-many-days-needed basis, I’m doing those. It’s all going pretty well. Only two more days of this regimen left.

She’s finally seeing better without her glasses than with them, and only uses them to read. It’s nice to start having a payoff for all the trouble she’s been through.

I’m hoping to get back to work on Sky tomorrow! That would be a novel experience. LOL!

Cataracts, Light and Heat

I’m happy to report that my mother’s cataract surgery went very well last Wednesday! (Thanks to those of you who lifted her up in prayer for that.) Post operative treatment included three types of eye drops, each administered a different number of times per day… one four times a day, one three times a day and one two times a day. Since the three times a day drop cost nearly $80 for this teeny little bottle, and my mother had been told it held exactly the amount she would need, she had no ability to get it into her eye without wasting precious drops. In fact, at first she was afraid she’d not be able to get any drops into her eye. So I came over and did that.

Which turned out to be a lot more tiring and disruptive of my writing routine than I anticipated especially given that our temps last week had surged into the triple digits — 104, 105, 106 — even as the dew point soared from 30 something to 57 (It’s 64 tonight, which is very high for us) Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico had finally made it up here with a vengeance. And we still haven’t had a storm at our house (I have to specify “at our house” because people several streets over could well have experienced rain.) Instead it’s just been very hot and humid and our evaporative cooler, is not up to the task of bringing full relief.

I’ve always found it very tiring to run errands, though that seems an awfully insignificant thing to make one tired. Still, there’s something about getting into the car, driving, getting out, going into the store, coming out, getting into the car, driving… etc… that just leaves me blitzed. The garden tour which my mother and I used to take yearly, involved a lot of that, and by the end I could hardly wait to go home and lie down in a dark room, whereas my mother was wishing there were more gardens to visit. I felt like a total wimp!

In fact, when we came out of the surgical center, she fresh from cataract surgery, her pupil dilated as big as the hole in a piece of notebook paper, I was scrambling for my sunglasses whereas she was only reluctantly donning those flimsy sunglasses they give you at the eye doctor’s to slip behind your glasses. The next day she wore no sunglasses at all. And I’m squinting!

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the short jaunts to my mother’s last week to put in the drops did the same thing to me as the garden tour did. I’d leave my darkened house (open blinds let in way too much heat) and step out into BRIGHTNESS! POUNDING HEAT! Get into the car, where the heat is worse, though the light, at least, is dimmer. Turn on the ignition, the AC starts up and and I start moving. By the time the AC’s cooled me off, I have reached my destination. So I stop and get out and HOT! BRIGHT! I go into my mother’s house … cool, dim… ten minutes later I come out… etc. And those weren’t the only places I had to go.

After the second day of that toward the middle afternoon when I had done three such runs and was laying on the couch in the cooler’s breeze, wiped out and bereft of motivation while drinking a glass of ice water, I remembered something I’d read in one of those introvert books.

“Energy creation is the most salient difference between introverts and extroverts,”said Marti Olsen Laney in The Introvert Advantage, “but there are two other primary differences: their response to stimulation and their approach to knowledge and experience. Extroverts thrive on a variety of stimuli, whereas introverts can find it too much…” (pg 20)

“Introverted bodies seem to be particularly attuned to fluctuations in temperature and to the rhythms of light and dark,” she said, on page 265. “At the same time, because they may not sweat as easily as extroverts, innies don’t function well when they are overheated. Every body movement slows to a crawl and thinking grinds to a halt.”

Well that certainly described MY experience! LOL. It was cool to be able to recognize that I wasn’t making it up, and not to have to beat myself up for being so wasted by what seemed like nothing. Instead I gave myself permission to sit on that couch in the breeze from the cooler drinking the ice water until I felt like doing something else. Unfortunately that didn’t include writing any blog posts. Or working on Sky…but it was definitely a learning experience. But really, I’m starting to feel like a mole.

On the other hand… maybe that’s why I’ve set Sky in an underground city…

On to Cataract Surgery

Well, the bone scan last week did not indeed go as expected. At the end of the process, when all the technicians were at their stations and not visible to my mother, and they were asking her to wait and wait while they waited for the doctor to get out of a meeting… my mother decided to get up off the table they had her on and visit the ladies’ room.

She didn’t realize they had raised the table since she’d gotten onto it and so when attempting to get off, she fell and hit her head on the floor, raising a huge knot on her forehead. She didn’t lose consciousness or even see stars but the crew insisted upon putting her in a wheelchair and taking her down to Emergency. There they took an x-ray of her leg which she said had a place on it that hurt but that she could walk on with no problem. After a long time, the doctor arrived to talk to her and examine her and determine that she was okay and discharge her.

So that added a couple extra hours onto the whole proceeding which had already been delayed an hour at the start.

But this last Monday we learned the results of the scan and overall she’s doing well. They’re going to keep her on bone strengthening medicine and an infusion of what I call “chemo lite” once a month for I don’t know how long. Until they say otherwise, I guess. They also said we could go ahead and see about scheduling cataract surgery.

Which is what we did today. Almost a year from when we started the proceedings in 2009. Turns out she didn’t get the calcium deposits back on her eyes, as we’d both feared, and they don’t need to take any more measurements cause they have the one they took last summer. So we’re set for next Wednesday morning.

The ophthalmologist said, after examining her eyes, that she is at the moment legally blind. So we’re all in a hurry to get this going. For those of you inclined to pray, please ask that the surgery and the recovery both go well. She’s heard some scary weird stories about hardened cataracts, infections, allergic reactions, and lots of recovery problems seeing… After all that’s happened it would be very nice if this could just go as smoothly as they say it usually does.

And since I haven’t had to be driving down to the cancer center every day, I’ve actually begun to see some progress on Sky. I’m working through the Prologue and have done more the last week and a half than for a very long time. Hooray!

A Dog Who Crosses His Legs

Well, I did ten more pages today, not writing from scratch but working through a sort of dump document, where I took elements from several different drafts of the Prologue (as in, entirely different scenarios) and cobbled them together with only the vaguest consideration of how the pieces might fit together. Now I’m going through and giving it all much closer consideration. It’s kind of slow going and… after all the problems I have with my hands already, can you believe that last night, just after I started working I started developing a pain on the outer edge of my right wrist?  Hmph. I’ve never had that pain before.

Another distraction. Too bad. I have a wrist brace. And Advil.

And since this is another very brief post I will show a picture of Quigley. He cracks me up the way when we go out into the yard in the morning, and I’m hanging out the clothes, he’ll do a round of the premises, then plop himself down in the grass not far from me and immediately cross his front legs. Almost always. Thus:

End of Cycle Six

Well, it turns out I did get home with a reasonable amount of time after my mother’s cancer treatments, but then I had to deal with… insurance issues. Like, “Once you’ve reached your out-of-pocket maximum, do you have to pay the copays for doctor’s visits?” I have called the health insurance company, pored over the insurance information and documentation, went online to look at evidence of coverage and am STILL not sure.

Originally the insurance agent told me that my mother would not have to pay anything, including copays once she reached the out-of-pocket limit. But then she got a bill for doctor’s visit copays after she’d reached her yearly cap (which happened after only one month of her chemotherapy regimen; it’s that expensive!). So I called the insurance company direct and was told that doctor’s copays are not applied toward the out-of-pocket limit and she would have to pay the bill and any subsequent copays. Okay.

So we went in today and told the receptionist that we were mistaken and my mother was supposed to pay the doctor visit copays even though she’d already reached the cap. The receptionist thought that was weird and suggested I talk to the Oncology center’s financial advisor. The financial advisor also thought that was weird; in fact she’d never heard of such a thing and asked me to bring in the EOB (Explanation of Benefits) for what she thought were the doctor visit copays my mother had been billed for. 

But the dates she gave us were after the ones on the bill…

I am utterly bemused by the lack of clarity in the language used in the Summary of Benefits. Under “Important information” it says:

$XYZ out-of-pocket limit.

There is no limit on cost sharing for the following services:

Medicare services:

  • Doctor office visits
  • Chiropractic Services
  • …etc…

So… From this I gather that “no limit on cost sharing” means that you must continue to share the cost without limits. Which means doctor visit copays do not apply to the oopl and you do indeed need to keep paying the doctor office copays…

Later on in the charts, they list items that are included in the out-of-pocket cap. “Doctor office visits” is not on the list but “physical exam” is. When you look at  “Physical exams” it says there is no copay for a routine exam, of which you may receive only one per year. Why list physical exams under what can be applied to the oopl if you don’t have to pay a copay for them? In “Physician Services,” they tell you all the rates of copays for various types of doctors.  But in many of the other categories, after they tell you the various copays they state, “you will pay these amounts until you reach your out-of-pocket limit.”

By which I deduce, again, that you must continue to pay doctor’s copays or they would have said “you will pay these amounts until you reach your out-of-pocket limit,” after the listings of the various doctor types of copays…

Are they being deliberately obtuse or is it just me?

On a brighter note, my mother is doing very well with her treatments. Today was the last full treatment and the end of the sixth cycle. She looks good, she’s feeling well, her pain is vastly reduced, and her appetite has returned. We now wait three weeks during which she’ll get a bone scan. Then we’ll go back for “maintenance” treatments with the chemo-lite drug that supposedly has no side effects… At least that’s his plan now. We won’t know for sure until the scan comes back and we see him again. But for now it looks like we might have a three-week break.

I say might because the one thing I’ve learned in all this is… you never know what a day might bring.

Another Speck

Some of you may recall that two years ago in April, when Quigley was about 4 months old, he had a speck blown into his eye that required eye surgery and two weeks of recovery wearing an e-collar. (Which disintegrated the morning of the last day he had to wear it.)

Well, it’s April again, and it has been very, very windy. Sunday Stu and I were discussing whether the way Quigley was sort of closing his left eye while he watched us eat, and pretended to doze, meant anything. Monday evening, as I was preparing to go out for our walk, the light was just right as Quig came up to me and I saw a bump on his cornea with a little blood vessel-looking thing snaking out to it. Later, Stu examined him with a strong light and said it looked like some sort of reddish covering.

So this morning I called the Vet Specialists, with visions of surgery, a two-week recovery, and an e-collar dancing in my head. I took him in at 9:15 and… as usual, my speculations were wrong. I don’t know why I bother with speculations. They are ALWAYS wrong. Anyway, I sat in a chair in the corner of the examining room and held him with the help of two veterinary technicians while the doctor numbed his cornea, turned out the lights and examined his eyes. Quig was pretty good about letting her do it, too. Eventually she determined that the speck of plant matter had probably been in there for over ten days. Thankfully it had not penetrated his cornea and she was able to brush it away with one of those little paper spears. After the administration of a few more drops and a treat for Quigley, we were on our way.

We brought home a bag of three different types of eye-drops that we’re to continue administering multiple times a day. After he got home, before the numbing wore off, I went out and bought a new e-collar in case he started rubbing his eye later on when the numbness wore off. Well, day’s end is here and he’s not rubbed it once that I’ve seen.

I love it. Nothing is ever what I expect it to be, it seems. And God knows that so well. Forget about expectations, He seems to be saying to me. And just trust me for however it’s going to turn out.

Wandering through the Day

Thanks to all my readers for your prayers and words of encouragement regarding the situation with my mother. I appreciate it.

Yesterday (Monday) turned out to be another day at the Cancer Center. I called first thing that morning and was directed to leave a voice mail with the scheduler for my mother’s doctor.  When I still hadn’t heard back after an hour and a half, I called again, was directed again to the voice mail, hung up, called again, asked if I could talk to the nurse, was put on hold, then told that the scheduler had sent back a message to them and they would call me back. Okay. I reminded myself that the Lord had it all under control and there was no need for me to hover around the phone — He could see that my presence and the call could coincide. So I went out and hung out laundry.

I was about to take a shower when the scheduler called and asked if we could come in at noon. So that’s what we did. The doctor did not know why my mother has the back pain, nor could he explain the sore throat, which was hyper red, something that usually presented with a viral infection, except she has no fever. He didn’t think last week’s shot would still be affecting her in that way, and suspected that “tincture of time” would likely be her best cure. He did switch her pain medication to something that wouldn’t make her sick to her stomach. And they gave her a bag of saline solution because she was dehydrated. We were there all afternoon.  I was not really all that surprised that it was nothing I had thought it might be or even that I could have thought it might be.  Given the weird inexplicable ailments that have befallen me and my dogs, why be surprised when my mother has them as well?

I finished up the day walking Quigley, doing Bible class, eating dinner and watching 24. By then I was too tired to anything for the blog. Today I slept in and though I tried to take a couple of hours working on Sky, I don’t think I had the mental/emotional energy because I only did it for an hour and then went off to get my free coffee and not-free scone at Starbucks (the bags I buy in the store have little “get a free coffee” emblem on them, and I’ve been taking advantage of it. I’m good for any excuse to go and get one of their scones. Today it was Maple Oat Pecan. Mmmmm). I never went back to Sky, but putzed around with cards, my journal, housework, a bit of organizing, some Internet reading and a couple more errands and before I knew it the day was gone.

But I will not condemn myself for “getting nothing done” because, well, that’s not even true. I did get stuff done. I just didn’t do it in the normal orderly manner. I just wandered through my day, kinda like Quigley would wander about the neighborhood from scent to scent if he were let free to so do. Is that such a bad thing? I’m beginning to think maybe it isn’t. Definitely a subject for thought.