So…..um, hi. It’s been a minute. I can honestly say I have been meaning to sit down and write out an update since my last post was…..um, a minute ago. But I plead that we have had 3 birthdays, 2 holidays, 1 school play, 2 auditions (the kid), 1 school break, 2 doctors appointments, 3 scans….and a partridge inna pear treeeeeeeee!
Overwhelmed by holidays and birthdays and general end-of-the-year insanity, I kept meaning to send out an update, but when I had time, I didn’t have motivation. And vice-versa. I kind of managed to get through holiday insanity this year, but I’m not really sure how because it felt like I didn’t have enough time or my act together. But….we made it.
So. Updates. I actually have something.
My yearly check-in with Dr. PCM-Traffic-Director last summer lead to follow up labs 3 months later in November, and surprisingly Doc added Cobalt and Chromium checks to my labs. B12, Iron panel, TSH, T4, CBC were all pretty good. Most of my levels have stabilized since the MRSA mess of 2016, and thyroid levels meant no change in my Synthroid dose. But my Chromium and ….well, mostly my Cobalt levels sent doc to an ortho surgeon referral.
I have a giant hunk of metal for a left hip. I’ve covered that pretty extensively in the past…
…and November 19th was the 10th anniversary of my hip surgery. Diagnosed in my 20’s, snarled at and told to lose “as much weight as I can”, and several ortho docs attempting to get me close to my 40th birthday (I had the surgery the day before my 34th birthday) later, I got a shiny new hip.
My docs have just started watching my cobalt and chromium levels in the last 4?ish years and I have learned that there’s:
- normal cobalt and chromium levels
- high cobalt and chromium levels
- implant level cobalt and chromium levels
- high implant cobalt and chromium levels
and unfortunately us implant patients pretty much all eventually end up climbing the ladder.
Right now my Chromium levels are acceptable (2.0: 0.1-2.1 mcg/L serum), but my Cobalt levels are creeping up (2.3: 0.0-0.9 mcg/L serum), so off I went to a new ortho surgeon.
Ortho docs like my case. They get to learn from me and I’m a pretty unusual case. At this point it’s labs and x-rays, basically yearly. I have a whole file I keep with my op report, yearly scans, etc. Ortho doc went over my case, read my file, checked my labs, examined me, and sent me down for this year’s scans.
Two things popped up this year.
One: it seems pseudotumors can pop up around the implant area, and my cobalt levels indicate that may be the case with me. He found one spot in particular to watch, but conceded it could reabsorb on its’ own, or it could just be bowel gas. Options for further studies include a higher level MRI to account for the affect from the metal or an in-office procedure to get a sample from my hip to test cobalt levels. I told him “That does NOT sound like fun.” He just looked at me.
Two: I have Myositis ossificans (calcified muscle tissue). Huh. I didn’t know that could happen.
So, after I told him shoving a giant needle into my hip joint wasn’t my best idea for fun, he conceded that he could check my levels again in 6 months and we can go from there. He seems pretty good, and I like him. I think the only argument we may have is if he decides I need a revision. I’m not really open to hip replacement revision surgery. That’s why I had the surgery I did 10 years ago. But it’s really interesting that most people just assume I would have the surgery.
I guess we’ll see…the story continues in June….
One of the biggest changes I have noticed since being diagnosed with my brain tumor (headaches, vision changes, and falling down the stairs 4 times so far notwithstanding) is that I have days I have trouble processing time. I can look at the clock 4 times in 5 minutes and not being able to connect what time it is.
I understand morning, afternoon, and evening but I will have whole days when I have trouble understanding the clock when I look at it. It doesn’t matter if I look at a digital clock or a traditional clock.
For example, if I have plans or an appointment at 1:30 pm and I look at my clock and see it’s 11:00 am, I know I have time before I need to go, do, meet, see, ect. But I have days that I can look at the clock 3 times in 10 minutes and not understand what 11 am means, so I do the math in my head again and know I have 2 & 1/2 hours. But it’s just on these days I keep looking at the clock and it’s just difficult for me to understand it.
I think maybe it’s because:
1) I already struggle with subjective, abstract ideas. In college, the class I had the most trouble with was Critical Thinking. I fought with my instructor because I didn’t like being graded on something subjective.
I also think the Phantom Time Theory might have something to it, and I find the whole idea that the date and time is what we say it is because we’ve set it at some specific time. Clearly I’m not a fan of daylight savings time.
2) I think maybe the part of my brain that understands abstract ideas might have been damaged by the tumor and the crazy lasers they were shooting into my brain. (okay….radiation therapy, close enough.)
According to the many, many, many scans of my brain and my tumor, the mass seems to be in the left prepontine area, right up against my left 5th cranial nerve. It’s too close to my brain stem for surgery, so it’s me and my tumor trying to figure out how to exist. So I figure out how to back myself up with notes, alarms, or timers.
I think human beings, especially Americans, struggle to process time. In America, we typically use the Gregorian calendar based on the idea that it’s 365.25 days each year, based on solar cycles. Other countries, and some businesses, use the Julian calendar. I learned that when I worked for Prudential Insurance too many years ago for me to tell you when it was.
I even understand military time and that Americans seem to write the date differently. October 15, 2017 vice 15-10-2017.
But…brain tumor or no brain tumor, what would you change about how you handle abstract ideas like time if you didn’t know what the rules were?
When I’m overwhelmed or there’s just a lot going on in my life, I tend to get really quiet. Yes, I’m aware that when it would make the most sense for me to write it out, cry out to the world, I tend to shut down. Retreat into myself. I’m aware. I still call it a survival mechanism. A leftover from a tough childhood.
The things that hurt…
…on the day my sister (in law) died, my son kicked me out of his life and it’s taken me about a year and a half to get something that almost resembles the beginnings of a start. But he’s my son, that’s my boy. I’ll take the pain. There’s no way I’m walking away.
…I miss B (my sister) all the time. I wonder if I could have done more for her. I talk to her a lot. Which sounds like I’m just a leeeetle bit crazy. But I believe she’s around. I think….I hope that we can have these conversations and she hears me and I can find bits that tell me we’re communicating.
…I miss my dad. I miss my dog. I like to think they’re off in this amazing better version of here. And together.
…And my biggest secret. My wedding anniversary is supposed to be tomorrow. I mean …it still will be. The date marking an event that happened 18 years ago will still exist. But mostly only because I’m still alive, sometimes against my will, and I’m still here. I packed up and left for about a year, 10 years ago. But all hell broke loose in my life and I got scared. I retreated back into a life that was familiar. I told myself I was happy.
Then I got sicker and sicker….
Chronic pain, complications from my hip replacement, pneumonia in both lungs with O2 stats dropping to 86%,leading to in home O2 for 3 months. More surgeries, more treatments, all while a full time college student, all while moving to and through 3 different states, all while trying to make a marriage work and take care of my kids and my family.
Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, 18 years ago I stood at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains and recited words from an event I wrote.
Now, I don’t even know what “thing” (silver? cotton? silk?) the anniversary stands for. I don’t have a card, or a gift, or a plan. Because I am unhappy. Unhappy as in I go to sleep more nights than not hoping I don’t wake up.
I’m sorry to think that for my mom and my kids, but I just feel like my reasons, my purposes…are done. They’re over and I can go now. I mean I’ve lived through 6 surgeries, septicemia, a brain tumor, radiation, and MRSA . And 2 blood transfusions. When is enough enough?
2016 was an all out, no holds barred suckfest. Universally.
But 2017 leaves me feeling like my life is upside down. I’m unhappy. And I don’t fight…..well, with anyone anymore, but my husband in particular. And very few people know that or know why. But the fight has been chipped away, and there’s not much left.
So, yes, I am very quiet lately. I am struggling. I am unhappy. And those are the kinds of things that leave me retreating into myself.
There’s a lot going on in my life right now. My oldest is living with me for a bit and getting her classes and clinicals set up for the upcoming semester. She has all 5 of the next semesters planned out and then tah-dah!! She’s off to be a radiographer extraordinaire! And my youngest has decided to make the leap into public high school, so that’ll be the biggest change for her (and for me!) (Seriously….ahhhhhh!!!! If you want me, I’ll be in my blanket fort!!)
I’ve shared all of this before, but on the heels of all this stuff, it also be time for the yearly check up. Kid goes tomorrow, probably need a Dtap booster and we want to get the Gardasil and she’s a happy and healthy kidlet, so she’s gonna be just fine!
Me? Well I started today by getting my lazy-wanting-to-crawl-back-under-the-covers bootie up and over to the clinic so the could pull my “fasting labs” before MY yearly check up next week. So that was 7 (seven!) vials they pulled today! I’m pretty sure I should have had a cookie and some juice before I left.
But I am seriously the world’s easiest stick:
I was just surprised it was so many vials! But I’m an easy stick, no rolling veins or trouble finding one. Stick, get the blood, BOOM done!
Then after dinner, I was sharing news about my friend’s dad had a heck of a scare last week and I spent most of last week praying for her and her family and thinking “I just really don’t want you to have to join the club.” (Grey’s reference)
There’s just so many of us that have lost our dads already, and far too many of those come from cancer, and I just…..I believe in miracles and I wouldn’t want that experience for anyone.
So I have been thinking about my friend, and sending good energy out in her direction.
I’m still technically a brain cancer patient, but I’m stable right now, no changes etc. But my friend’s Dad had a really scary afternoon last week and came back from 2 (TWO!) cardiac arrests and was busting out of the hospital 4 days after and asking to go to the local VFW Friday Fish Fry. And the whole thing just sat me down.
I’m still a brain cancer patient, but I’m stable and still fighting for my independence. I’m down to 3 doctors these days and doing much better than a year ago (when I had MRSA). I just mean I understand both a patient, and as a daughter who did lose a Dad to lung cancer 5 years ago.So I’m sitting in my living room, mulling things over, and feeling like I should share and I look up….
A Sailor’s Wife on the wall, a gift from my sailor when he retired out of the Navy after 24 years. My incredibly cool cherry blossom tree card I got for Mother’s Day, Deadpool…..because Marvel, and our newest incredibly cool thing in the house: a 3D printed moon that lights up from the inside.
Sometimes I just get sat down bust by looking around, thinking about stories we share with other people, or they share with us. Seeing something you can relate to…..sometimes there just are no words.
But this week I found some perspective, something to be grateful for, a lot of hope for,a couple of tears, and a question for myself.
My friend’s Dad went into cardiac arrest twice , he got CPR and the paddles and he fought back. He came back. Could I have done the same thing in his shoes? I’d love to reply to that question with a snappy “yes!!”, but I’m not so sure.
If anything, it certainly shows that the will to fight is just as strong as any chemo, surgery, or medical intervention. Don’t get we wrong, one of the reasons he survived was because he was in a place the allowed him to be treated while they called the ambulance and got him to the hospital.
But hearing how things happened certainly gave me pause. I’m a brain cancer patient too, but I am stable and doing pretty good right now. So I send my heartfelt prayers, and love, and hope to that family. And I hope I keep in mind that the will to fight is just as important as any IV, scan, drug therapy, or surgeon.
Sometimes, the fight seems it might just be a little bit more.
There are a lot of moving pieces in my life. Like…..MY life isn’t moving, but there is a lot! of movement around me and a lot of change. And I get it. Life is change and movement, whether that might be forward, or backward, or temporary movement.
1. enrolled in the second part of her program, which means along with classes and papers, and reading, and.. and… and… (because it’s college), she’ll be starting her clinicals soon as well. She’s going through all this schooling to be a radiographer. I thought she was going for Xray tech, but this so much more. She kicking ass, so give her a thumbs up!
2. Her boyfriend of a year just dropped her without really any reason. Forget a good reason, it was shit and it was selfish and it broke her heart.
3. So on top of getting into the program, she quit her job to focus on school, and her boyfriend tells her “we’re not compatible”. W T F?!
4. And then her fish died today. She’s having a rough week.
My boy…well, not “boy”; 6 foot tall, 200 lbs (23 year old) man, but my only son and therefore still my boy is still plugging along at his training to be an electrician and he finishes in November. And he seems to like Northern California, so that’s all good stuff for him too.
But we are having a major shift in the house. My youngest has decided to go to the local public high school and get out there and meet teenagers and go do the high school experience. Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but she’s been homeschool since she was 6. I brought her home in 2009. We were just moving way too much at that point with the Navy closing NAS Brunswick, so I thought the better choice was to homeschool her under an accredited school to protect us, allow us to reach what she wants to learn, when she wants to learn and how she would learn. But it’s been 8 years now and she wants to start getting out into the world.
So, between random bouts of tears and panic attacks, I am getting the paperwork together to get this process started.
It just feel like a million things I’m directing traffic to, offering up time and whatever my girls need.
So if you need me, I’ll be hiding out in my blanket fort. With my tablet, my coloring book (and crayons), and maybe some snacks.
I have been pretty quiet on my blog for a bit now. Some of it because I’m going through stuff in my head, other reasons just being that I haven’t had much to report on my illness. Last year I couldn’t seem to stabilize, this year I have.
But it’s July 17. And aside from the insanity of the world and my country’s “leaders”, losses (George Romero. You will be missed.), and life, the universe, and fish; July 17, 2001 is the date my before became my after. Post part-of-my-world-didn’t-make-sense, post PTSD, post Rainbow baby, sixteen years later I am a very different person. And so I usually stop and take stock on July 17.
The stuff I’m going through in my head? I’m trying to figure out how to want to live again. This is the kind of thing I haven’t touched on in my posts about scans and tests and insane amounts of radiation. We talk about the scans, the tests, the treatments, surgeries, recoveries, and medications of chronic illness, but what about when they tell you it’s inoperable? Incurable?
I got told I have a relatively small, most-likely benign tumor in my brain *but* it is inoperable, incurable, post-treatment (radiation) stable, but I’m still a brain cancer patient. I spent two years (give or take) preparing to die.
Inoperable, chemo’s not an option, radiation means scary complications are possible, and in some cases (brain edema) expected. I fought with my oncologist and refused steroids because the patient cases I read about them scared the hell out of me. High dose radiation scared me, the specific steroids for the brain edema scared me more. So I fought with him and fought through three weeks of brain edema and a trip to the ER that required meds, fluids, and a surprisingly high dose of potassium before they would release me.
Three years later I’m pretty stable. (aside from the awesomely clumsy episode of me dropping cleaning supplies on the bridge of my nose yesterday…….frickin OW)
Last year I couldn’t seem to stabilize. I had MRSA in my lungs and throat and spent almost an entire year coughing up green yuck. Another trip down the stairs. Frontal lobe spikes on my EEG. This year, I finally got my lungs back, I’m still clumsy but the stairs and I have an understanding for now, and I can (usually) finish a sentence.
My body seems to take a year to get through something. Instead of having pneumonia, getting antibiotics, and recovering; I had pneumonia, lots of antibiotics, 3 different inhalers, and eventually in-home oxygen when my O2 levels dropped under 86% walking around my doctor’s office before, about a year later, I recovered.
Dunno why. But a lot of things take me a year.
Throw an artificial hip (10 years ago this November), a brain tumor, and crappy MRSA lungs at me and I start making peace with my the great hereafter. Or something along those lines.
We talk a lot about life with an illness or during a treatment, but we don’t mention staring into the mirror and making peace with your mortal coil. But it does happen, and we should know we’re not alone. I should know I’m not alone.
So I’m kind of, sort of, coming out the other side of that. I’m thinking this stupid thing won’t kill me. At least not yet.
So while I’m pretty quiet on my blog, my journals show I’m still thinking, writing, struggling. I’m still living.
This came through my inbox by way of another awesome chick I follow. Her take:
When I read over the healthcare bill draft released to the public last week, I couldn’t help but cry. If this bill passes Senate, I won’t live to see my 40th birthday. This isn’t a maybe, it’s an absolute fact. This is secondary to the millions of others who will be affected by this and I’m terrified for all of us.
Nikki perfectly and succinctly articulates the way many of our government officials view those with disability and hardship – that these problems are self-created by the individuals who are on these programs. Her mock obituary is a sobering view of what the passing of this bill will do to her, myself, and millions of other Americans.
Many of us in the chronic illness community are already fighting to be taken seriously, to have access to pain relief, to be seen and heard. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but no option for health care is so much worse.
My friends, my sisters, my daughter….need access to health care. Even without the challenges of an inoperable brain tumor, or a lung transplant, or kidney disease, Crohn’s Disease, or any of the myriad of autoimmune diseases, health care should not be a privilege.
Yearly preventative check-ups, well baby and child care, vaccines (don’t start with me), birth control, or emergency services for when your kid falls of their bike!! These are not unreasonable expectations for a developed society.
Please write to your representatives. Yes, again, if you have to. Stand up for those that don’t have a voice, stand up for your loved ones, stand up and tell DC this is not okay.
Source: Me Without Healthcare….