FINALLY feeling better

Just as things were getting better–I picked up a sinus infection. Previously to this, I had NO idea how much a cough, sneeze, or even blowing my nose could make muscles in certain other areas of the body move… and in this case, it was the incision site that had finally started feeling better.

Boom! A bunch of time spent healing wasted.

After over a week of various colors dripping from my nose (yellow, florescent green, orange, bloody red; but thankfully no blue, purple, or black), I’m a little further along than I was on November 20th. At least I can drive for short periods of time, go out shopping (a little over an hour exhausted me even though I was clinging to a shopping cart in each of the two stores), and tonight we find out how well I do at the movie theater because I’ve already missed too many  movies that I want to see!

I’d probably be less of a whiny-ass if the cough was finally gone and my–ahem–still unnamed body part was fully healed, but other than that, I’m doing much, much better than before. If fact right now, the most difficult part is trying to keep Steve for overloading my schedule with things that have me using/interacting with my unnamed body part in uncomfortable places (ooooh, that sounds sort of perverted…). This would normally make me want to smack him upside the head–except for the fact that he’s doing it because he’s happy I can finally go out and do stuff with him again. And I have to admit I’m excited about that part too. Most of my frustration is from him thinking that just because I’m released to go back to work (in four days… booo!)–it means I’m all healed up and everything is back to normal–no matter how many times I tell him that all it really means is that the discomfort level is low enough that I can function in society again.

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Yesterday I decided I was feeling better and needed to rejoin the rest of the world. And in that short time, I somehow have managed to start a huge project at home. I have no idea HOW I keep doing this. It started out small, until I realized that that each step depends on a different part of the house being cleaned and somewhat organized before I can move on to the next. With my being out of commission for so long–and my lifelong hatred of cleaning–my house is a disaster area with a fully functioning roof.

The good part is that this project gives me some sort of order that must be followed (which means there’s a better chance I’ll complete it rather than quitting in frustration after getting distracted and somehow lost along the way), and the best part is that it’s forcing me clean and organize the house. Something that hasn’t been done in years. Well, at least for the organized part.

But I’m more than willing to admit that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. This is even though I know I’ll be happy/pleased/content/proud when it’s all done and I’ll see them every day when I come home. Also, it’ll give me the confidence I need to push me to do other projects later.

Anyway, I’ll post photos of what I’m talking about when I finally get them finished (I even remembered to grab a before photo). And while they may be a DIY sort of project–they’re for really dorky things that we both love (some we’ve had for years, one I picked up from the recent Comic Con in Austin, and one is Steve’s early Christmas gift –which forced me to stalk one of his favorite comedians. I’ll publicly apologize for that later, and maybe even write him a thank you letter for being so nice about it…I wonder if a bribe would help).

Spent most of the last 3 to 4 weeks on painkillers

…which makes it rather difficult to blog. I have no idea why I thought I’d have plenty of time to catch up on all of of this while I was off of work. Most likely because I’m not used to taking anything stronger than ibuprofen and I underestimated my mental state or even my conscious state while on something stronger (I DID learn, however, that there are some painkillers I cannot take, and ended up back in the hospital after a week of them).

What kind of surgery did I have? The kind that is very humiliating to talk about. I finally had to bite the bullet and get it done because 1) it was painful and was only getting worse, 2) I was having to use up my vacation time to cover on days where I could suffer through the first attack and then schedule the next few days off, and 3) the times I couldn’t schedule off in advance-I was taking hits to my attendance, which can get you fired rather quickly when working for my company.

There were a lot of things I had read in preparation for this, and let me tell you that the amount of pain I was warned about was sooooooo true. Some of the things that I found online that had suggestions on how to cope with recovery were useful, some were not useful, and one or two made things worse. I’d love to do a write up on it, but then I’d have to actually admit to what I had done…. and it’s kinda embarrassing to so.  Maybe I’ll get over the embarrassment one day, or maybe I’ll post it somewhere else.

But I’m finally off the painkillers (except for those occasional evenings when things get worse), and can coherently write again. Seriously, my Facebook entries while on the second set of painkillers had references to giant robot penises and other odd things (the first set of painkillers only kept me unconscious and never actually managed the pain, which is why I ended up back in the hospital with a different set of drugs).

So I’m back. And too late for all the Halloween stuff I put together too. I guess I’ll just save them for next year since I have them pretty much ready to go other than some final editing. But I have some cool Thanksgiving stuff! And Thanksgiving’s this week! …which means I’ll have to wait until next year for those as well… this sucks.

It’s now time to go and get ready for the Doctor’s visit that will determine when I’m allowed to go back to work, so I guess I’ll leave you with a photo of Nemo keeping my feet warm while I was sick:

This was probably the best thing that came out of this past month. Other than the giant robot penis comment on Facebook.

Bilateral Vestibular Hypofunction Update

Other than occasional wobbling when the atmospheric pressure changes or when I crash into bushes and trees when going downhill on uneven footing at night with only a flashlight, I’ve been able to pretty much ignore any remaining problems with my bilateral vestibular hypofunction (BVH) issue. (Ok, the bush, bush, tree, and bush incident was kinda difficult to ignore.) It may never completely go away, but as long as I keep up with my treatment, it won’t interfere much with my daily activities (other than ice skating… that was terrifying and I have no desire to ever attempt that again).

I do want to share what I’ve learned and what I’ve found helpful, because finding useful information online was more of a pain in the ass than I expected. Of all the websites out there, this is the the one I recommend: http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/treatment/rehab.html

It was designed for patients who were referred to Chicago Dizziness and Hearing for vestibular therapy (whoever and whatever they are). I recommend it because it matches my treatment, which made a HUGE difference in my quality of life, and it explains a few things that I forgot to ask about during my therapy sessions. It has also been a great reference now that I’m supposed to maintain the exercises on my own.

Actually, before I go any further, I do want to point out that there was one other piece of information I located online that made a difference for me. It was one that mentioned that untreated vestibular symptoms can make you feel like you are losing your mind. This is because the brain is going nuts trying to compensate for the lack of the ability to balance and that is enough to start cutting into other things your brain normally handles. The ear doctor never mentioned any of this and so I seriously thought he had no idea of what the real issue was. Since these balance problems can be the sign of a serious health issue, I was frantic. The website reassured me that he DID know what he was doing–he just wasn’t very good at explaining any of it.

But I was lucky. I was assigned to a physical therapist who sat me down first thing and explained what was going on–how it affected my brain, eyes, and balance–and what I needed to do to fix it. If the doctor had shared any of this information, there would have been a hell of a lot less stress while we were getting everything sorted out.

While it’s mostly gone, there are days where it suddenly appears and throws everything off again. But because I do try to keep an eye on my balance, it doesn’t get very far out of whack before I’m able to reign it in.

I still have an eye-chart with one of the letters highlighted on my entertainment center at home for those days when the weather changes enough to cause problems. While it helps with my balance, it really rocks the oscillopsia. What’s oscillopsia? That’s where the world bounces every time you move your head. Even barely shifting triggers it. Drastic changes in the weather are sometimes enough to start it up again. Here’s a link to a video that’ll show you what it feels like, although the motion can shift in more directions than the clip shows. Warning, it may take a while for this to load.

http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/bilat/movies/bilosslabfunc.avi

I also keep 3″ foam yoga blocks around to balance on any time I start feeling a bit off. Look for the cheap ones scince anything sold for yoga purposes can get pricey. I grabbed two at $5 a piece and each block is the perfect size for one foot. I even keep one at work.

Right now I’m working on getting back into shape. I’m getting up at 5:30 am to use Steve’s treadmill a few times a week (up to a half mile at 3.5 mph with a little jogging thrown in–ok, very little), and I also started strength training on alternate days (I have NEVER been in this much stretchy-muscle kind of pain before. But then again, I’ve never been this out of shape before. You should have seen how few reps I was able to do. It was a combination of discouraging AND motivating).

What does walking/jogging and strength training have to do with vestibular rehabilitation? A lot. Just jogging in a straight line can be tough. Walking isn’t bad with enough light, but speeding it up makes me start wobbling a bit. Cranking up the incline on the treadmill helps out with the wobble for some odd reason. Strength training is mostly to protect my bones. I’m getting older and as a female, this is a bad time to lose muscle mass.

Who knows? Maybe getting into shape will improved my BVH symptoms even more. Certainly can’t make it any worse.

I’ve fired my doctor

It’s not like I’ve ever been able to schedule an appointment with my primary care physician for the past few years anyway. And the one appointment I had to take a vacation day to schedule was canceled when his nurse called me with the results of the ultrasound (that was recommended by a different doctor when I once again couldn’t schedule my own doctor last October).

“It’s just an ovarian cyst, it will go away. There’s no need for you to come in.”

When it returned early this year, I suffered through it for a while because I was still pissed off at my doctor. Thankfully I remembered my OB/GYN, who had helped me with my hysterectomy. He said pretty much the same thing, but wanted to watch it. That was a good thing because it ended up having to come out once he found endometriosis. We thought that was it, but by early June, the pain was back and it was getting worse (and it ruined what was supposed to be a relaxing and romantic vacation in Vegas).

My OB/GYN, being an OB/GYN and not a GP, said that wanted me to have a CT scan done, but as my other ovary looked fine and there wasn’t any sign of endometriosis on the neighboring organs, he’d probably have to send me to see a different specialist (I then got to see photos of my ovaries-the one I kept and the one that was pulled. That was pretty cool).

Three weeks later, I finally got the results of the CT scan: gall bladder stones, a kidney stone (1 cm), two hernias, and diverticulosis. He didn’t catch any of this earlier because my symptoms don’t really match any of these things. DH complains that there’s not going to be much of me left if they keep pulling things out, but I do understand that medicine isn’t an exact science… you treat what you can find and then try to find something else if that doesn’t fix the problem. Although right now I really wish someone would invent a tricorder, because this process blows.

I’ve since seen a surgeon for the gall bladder and a urologist for the kidney stone (the hernias were practically non-existent and the diverticulosis looked fine).

The surgeon, whose name I’m afraid to pronounce because I keep mangling it, says the symptoms don’t quite match gall bladder symptoms so he doesn’t want to remove anything if there’s no need (I REALLY like this doctor). He’s waiting to see how I feel after having the kidney stone removed.

The urologist wants the stone gone, but he’s not sure that’s going to completely resolve my pain either, since it doesn’t quite match kidney stone symptoms. I have an appointment for an extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) treatment in a few weeks to break up the stone so I can pass it. One of my co-workers has been telling me horror stories about his experience, although most of them have more to do with the removal of the stent, which shouldn’t be as traumatic for me as I don’t have a male appendage to worry about.

They did give me some narcotics to to help me get through the kidney stone attacks until the ESWL, but the two times I’ve taken them, the attacks were much more intense. I now actually know what it feels like to hurt so badly that it makes me want to vomit. It may only be a coincidence, but I’m not quite sure I want to try them a third time.

So most days I try to muddle through as there’s always something that needs to be done. Sometimes the pain makes me want to cry, other times I try not to start raging at work when someone does something mildly stupid (more often other agents rather than customers). Today has been a rather productive day off of work for me–very little pain and more energy than I have most days. I not only managed to clean up part of the house, but I also fed my craving for snickerdoodles by making a double batch of the little buggers. Maybe I’ll even be nice and take some to work for all the people who have been putting up with me and my whining for the past 10 months.

And my primary care physician? Well I’m looking for a new one. Any recommendations?