Monday, May 17, 2010

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

status

Marginally better.

I had to over-hydrate myself this morning for a blood draw (6 tubes - whoa), and found my eyes didn't burn so much. Of course, it's cloudy and cool today, and the pollen count has fallen from its insane peak, so that's probably helping, too. It's not as if my eyes aren't dry, they're just not completely parched and painful.

My RA was only bad in waves today, or maybe because I was busy I was just able to ignore it better. I do hate it when my hands throb.

My hip: meh. My left piriformis is killing me, in spite of fairly scrupulous efforts to never, ever twist my hips. I catch myself crossing my legs occasionally, and immediately uncross them. The muscle (and it's only the one) hurts worse than the joint, most of the time. I still have very limited range of motion. This is the first time I've had something happen where it really is affecting my quality of life other than just overlaying everything with a haze of pain. I really miss being able to sit cross-legged! There's no way I could do that now with the hip the way it is. Still haven't found a good way to stretch the piriformis with my limited mobility. BioFreeze.

Sinus pain/pressure: much better today -- yesterday I thought it would about kill me, it was a throbbing 7 most of the day, but that's because I didn't get nearly enough sleep the night before. I got a good 7 hours last night and I'm sure that helped a lot. Today, only mild pressure and short-lived pain reaching only a 3 or a 4. I'm tired now, and I can feel it more. I discussed it with DH, and we've both decided it's not brain metastases (heh), but it could be cluster headaches. Hope it's not, but I do have a history of migraines.

Energy level was OK today, I didn't have to work so hard to push through the fatigue. Mentally I feel quite sharp even though I feel physically exhausted, which is OK -- I hate it when the brain fog sets in, at least now I can still think.

I have to look at the calendar and figure out when everything started so I know what to say when I see Dr. C, the TMJ/headache specialist on Wednesday. This has certainly been going on long enough.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

even the tiny green ones are fuzzy

Hope springs eternal.

barely an inch long


No, not olives!


If they survive the heat of the summer and we get enough of a cold snap in the fall, we might just have a little peach crop this year.

quite a spell

I've been taking Arthrotec since Saturday, and haven't really noticed much improvement. Sometimes my hands are better, but they still bother me throughout the day. Although they don't appear as swollen, they still hurt. Some days (yesterday, for example), my eyes are fine; this morning, I could barely open them, they were so dry. That's what I get for neglecting to put drops in before I went to sleep. As far as I can tell, that problem is unrelated to how well hydrated I am, the pollen count, or cosmetics.

The hip is a problem. Tuesday's modified workout (no bike, no running) seemed to help everything else and not aggravate the hip. I worked out somewhat less carefully yesterday, hoping for more improvement, only to be rewarded with an excruciatingly painful hip. Tylenol, ice, and Lidocaine patches are barely taking the edge off. Sitting, standing, and lying down are equally painful. At the same time, the muscle problems that usually accompany my bad hip are not bad at all -- I think the Arthrotec is helping there.

In other news, the hip x-ray was normal. I don't think bursitis shows up on x-rays. I'm relieved that there's no bone damage or bone metastases, although it would be weird if there were, considering how suddenly this all came on.

My theory is that I just overdid it in my preparations for Easter, when I was very active and on my feet for two very long days. My symptoms didn't kick in right away -- Easter was a great day, it was really not until Tuesday that I started feeling miserable -- but that's the only "event" I can point to that might have triggered the flare. OTOH, I have vacuumed the entire house before without these horrible effects, so maybe that's not it.

The Arthrotec is definitely helping my neck, although I've a muscle in my left shoulder that feels rock-like most of the time, no matter how much I stretch and massage it. It also seems to be helping my stomach, at least on the gastroparesis front, although it does make me feel pukey for a couple of hours after I take it, even taking it with food. That side effect is supposed to diminish after a week -- here's hoping.

The blocked/congested left sinus situation persists; the Arthrotec is taking the edge off that, too. I'm wearing my speaking splint on the theory that it's TMJ-related, but so far it hasn't made any difference at all.

The purpose of this is not to whine, the purpose is to keep track of my various symptoms during this active treatment phase so I can see what, if anything, is working. Here's the whining part: I'm not sleeping well (no surprise), and I still haven't heard about either my practicum placement or my job application.

On the positive side, RE classes are swiftly drawing to a close, and DS2 will receive his sacraments April 24. I made the most awesome "donut muffins", cinnamon butter puffs from my beloved The Breakfast Book. And I've backed up my entire website in preparation for porting this blog to another platform. I've been taking naps in the morning to make up my sleep deficit, and I feel very lucky that I'm able to do that. I have only 2 lessons left in one of my courses, and 4 in the other (of course there's also that practicum to get out of the way.) School will be out before we know it. I'm really looking forward to summer.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

staying on top of things

The shooting pains in my hip this morning convinced me to call my rheumatologist. I had perfect timing in calling, because they just had a cancellation so I'm getting to see her tomorrow afternoon. That's practically a miracle. It has been quite a while since I've been in (12/08), so they've sent me a new patient information packet to fill out -- I'm not looking forward to doing the pain inventory right now, mostly because it's pretty bad. I was trying to scale the hip pain and decided on a 6 (1-10 pain scale), which for me, means that it was so bad that I couldn't sit still, I kept moving trying to find a position that would relieve it. Nothing worked, although it did calm down a bit (the ibuprofen takes the edge off), so now it's about a 4, constantly calling attention to itself.

My hands are bothering me, too, to the point I haven't even been putting my rings on at all, although I have them on now -- but I can feel them, they feel heavy around my finger, and the hands themselves are at least a 4, too. Sheesh.

At least today my neck is not too bad... it occurred to me that the pain in my sinus might be TMJ-related, although I have absolutely no TMJ-related symptoms, my jaw feels fine, no clicking or anything like that. Plus I am religious about posture these days, especially the set of my shoulders, because my neck injury has been flaring up a bit.

Anyway: Day 4 of the Z-pack and while the sinus pain is somewhat reduced, at times it hurts just as much as ever, regardless of the ibuprofen status. I'm not holding out much hope for that Z-pack, but I am considering calling Dr. C and getting an opinion from him. I need to go dig out my speaking splint and start wearing it, and see if it makes any difference, and I'll continue with my neck/shoulder exercises too -- not that they are helping, but they're certainly not hurting.

My stomach is 'eh' these days. Easter was ridiculous, how much I ate -- and drank (mimosas!) -- but I didn't feel sick at all. I've been good since then, although not totally low carb (6 jellybeans last night, a couple of tiny lemon squares in the afternoon) -- but not crazy eating, either. I'm not paying any attention to my weight since my hands are so swollen, I have no way to evaluate how accurate it is, but it is nearly as high as it was when I started my "diet". Some days I feel normal, like I can eat anything I want and be fine, other days I feel as if nothing's working properly and I should stick with a liquid diet. (On that note, the Gold Standard vanilla ice cream flavor whey + cocoa + DaVinci sf dark cherry syrup = insane deliciousness.) I actually bought gum today, in the hope that chewing some would help my stomach wake up while I was out doing errands today.

I applied for my dream job on 3/31, still haven't heard anything. Still haven't heard about my practicum placement, either. I don't like waiting.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

latest ows

A couple of things I need to keep track of...

I have an eye/sinus thing that's well into its third week. I let it go for a while but then it became painful -- I thought it was just a temporarily blocked tear duct, but then it moved into my face and is not fun. I broke down and went to the doctor last week, he started me on anti-biotic eye drops on the theory that whatever it is started in the eye. Instructions were to give a good 5 days, and if it wasn't better, to start the Z-pack. I started the Z-pack yesterday. No appreciable relief yet. My eyes are very dry and gritty -- I'm using the Refresh tears more often than I ever have before, but the eyes still burn all the time.

Coincidentally I had a follow-up with my ENT today, who anesthetized my nose and then scoped it (very cool gadget, that) and didn't see a thing indicating any kind of infection. No swelling, inflammation, discharge, nothing. He did say there could be a sub-clinical infection in the sinus which he wouldn't be able to see with the scope, so we should give the Z-pack a good 10 days to work -- and if it's not better by than, he'll send me for a CT scan.

I don't want a CT scan, for many reasons. First of all, whenever I hear the word "scan" my brain automatically goes directly to "metastases", which is absurd, but I've been living with cancer for five and a half years now, and that's just the way my brain works. Second, CTs are expensive, and third, it probably won't show anything. The ENT mentioned the possibility that it could be a nerve problem. On a certain level I'm pretty happy that everything looks OK up inside my head (at least the parts the doctor could see - nasal passages, ears, throat, heck even my eyes look fine), while at the same time I'm wishing this was just a simple, treatable sinus infection. It's not, and I know it's not, because I've had plenty of sinus infections in my day, and I can't recall a single one feeling like this and not responding at all to Sudafed, mucinex, sinus rinses and ibuprofen. All that OTC stuff gets a handle on congestion, drainage, and inflammation, and helps clear out the sinuses so they can heal -- and none of it has helped a bit this time.

So I'll just wait and see. Perhaps whatever this is related to this:

I'm in a wicked flare the past couple of days. It may have started before Easter but I was too busy to pay it much attention, but I'm hurting everywhere now, even on a steady diet of ibuprofen. I'm just keeping my rings off because my hands are swollen and I don't want them to get stuck. My left hip is particularly bad -- it has been bothering me for a few weeks now with limited range of motion, but nothing too horrible. I figured I'd pulled it working out and it would get better, but it hasn't. Pain in the joint has been increasing, which sucks, and now all the muscles in my butt/hip on the left side are all seized up. Which came first, the muscles seizing up or the joint pain? They are definitely related. I'm doing my best not to torque my hips around, which means sleeping with a pillow between my knees, never crossing my legs, and not curling up in a chair or on the couch or anywhere -- I can't tuck my feet under me or sit cross-legged and man, is that annoying and tiring and worst of all, it's not helping.

Stretching: the ones I can do aren't helping, and the ones I want to do I can't do because of that range-of-motion problem I mentioned. Copious amounts of Biofreeze gel help. I spoke to the 24-hour on call nurse at Blue Cross and she recommended I see the rheumatologist, but I kind of want to see the sinus thing through first. (Now I sound like my mother, who doesn't want to multi-task health issues.) Perhaps I'll call tomorrow.

Sleeping OK. Feeling a bit pukey from the antibiotics (I think, it feels different from the gastroparesis pukiness. No actual puking, though, as has been true for the last ~20 years.) Ate way too many sweets (too much in general) over Easter -- which may have contributed to the flare -- and am now back to eating sensibly. Was hoping that would have a more immediate impact on my general condition, but so far, no such luck.

Monday, March 29, 2010

diet, gastroparesis, etc

March 16th: cooked a bunch of new stuff, ate way too much, felt sick all night.
March 17th: diet!

Wait, how could I start a diet on St. Patrick's Day?

Honestly, it wasn't a problem. I didn't want to eat anything on St. Patrick's Day. I felt so miserable I was compelled to do something. A huge internet search led me to a new gastroparesis blog with some good suggestions.

Since the 17th, I've had protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, and then whatever we're having for dinner, although I've been watching portions, especially carbs. I decided to do this for two reasons: first, because I felt so very sick on the night of the 16th. It really upset me that just eating what for many people would be a normal dinner would make me so sick. Second, on the morning of the 17th, I stepped on the scale and looked at a number I hadn't seen since my pregnancy days. Clearly I had to do something to get things under control. I wasn't paying attention to what, when, or how much I was eating, and in spite of occasional bouts of misery, I had been gaining weight. A pound here or there every three or four months doesn't seem like much, but they were creeping up.

My gastroparesis seems to be responding well to this regimen. Not having to digest solid food for most of the day seems to make handling dinner not as much of a problem, although I am nibbling Trader Joe's candied ginger or Ginger Chews nearly every evening. The ginger was a piece of advice I picked up from Crystal's Living with Gastroparesis blog (linked above), and it has really helped.

So my stomach's doing better and I'm back to the weight on my driver's license, down 9 pounds since the 17th. It has been quite a while since that was true. (I'm not sure it was true on the day I got the license.) I'd like to lose a little more for bathing suit season (here's hoping we have some beach weather this summer), but mostly I'm happy I don't feel like puking all the time. Now that I'm back down to what is technically my "normal" weight, I'm curious to see what happens. Since I've cut back my carbs my appetite is pretty much gone -- but at the same time, I don't get that horrid nausea I used to get first thing in the morning when my stomach was empty.

Interestingly, I seem to have the worst gastroparesis symptoms when I eat more starches. I'm still taking digestive enzymes and omeprazole (Prilosec acid-reducer) twice a day. I tried peppermint oil but that seemed to make my reflux worse (a noted side effect), and I experimented with Betain to see if my problem was insufficient acid as opposed to too much, and that was definitely not the case. I've ordered some Iberogast after reading what Crystal had to say about it, it will be interesting to see if it helps when it arrives.

You'd think after nearly two weeks I'd be sick of the shakes, but I try to vary them. I'm also like them because they are fast and easy, and they don't make me sick. That last is a huge plus, and explains a lot of my fondness for them. Also, the Gold Standard Whey is a very good tasting whey protein shake mix, with a pleasant mouth feel (some leave the inside of your mouth feeling like it's coated with plastic.) Some shake recipes:
- coffee instead of water, sprinkle with cinnamon
- coffee, add a scoop of cocoa powder for a mocha
- add a scoop of cocoa powder and a tablespoon or so of peanut butter
- add a scoop of cocoa powder and some sugar free black cherry syrup (I have been corrupted by Starbuck's new Black Cherry Mocha. It's insanely delicious, I just wish they had a no-sugar option.)
- orange Powerade Zero instead of water to make a creamsicle shake

If you use cocoa powder or peanut butter, you have to leave it on the blender for a while. I usually throw in a couple of ice cubes and let it blend while I'm puttering around in the kitchen -- a good 3 or 4 minutes, at least. It gets nice and frothy, which makes it easier for me to drink. I'm thinking of trying cream cheese to see if I can get a cheesecake flavor.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

signs of Spring



The neighborhood turtle comes out to bask in the warm afternoon sun.




And (finally!) blossoms appear on my peach tree.

new cure for hiccups

DS2 (9yo) gets the hiccups all the time. If he laughs for more than 10 seconds, he gets the hiccups. Sometimes he'll just get the hiccups for no reason. He used to get very frustrated because often it would take a while for them to go away -- the usual tricks of drinking water and holding his breath were useless.

Both boys had their well visits with the pediatrician last week, and the only issue that I had on my list to ask about was DS2's hiccups. Surprisingly, the doctor had some practical information and advice.

Information: frequent hiccup sufferers like DS2 are often shallow breathers. Hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm, the thin sheet of muscle below your lungs that we use to fill them with air. If your breathing is shallow, your diaphragm isn't getting a good workout, and it's much more likely to spasm.

Advice (the cure): Fill your lungs. This is the important part: being careful not to let any air escape, draw even more air in, so your lungs feel over-full. This has the effect of pushing down on your diaphragm. Hold for a moment, then release the air slowly. Repeat the process for best results.

DS2 reports great success with this technique. Not all hiccups are caused by shallow breathing, but it certainly won't hurt to try this technique next time you get them.