Update August 26, 2016
The sutures are removed, but a day later and I woke to find blood on the back of my t-shirt. Rick treated the small break-through bleeding with aquaphor and a small bandaid. If it continues to bleed, (being one of the signs of cancer, bleeding that doesn’t heal is a concern) we’ll try some of the formula that the dermatologist prescribed once before when my arm’s biopsy continued to bleed longer than it ought to have. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Update August 27, 2016
Uh oh … more bleeding last night. The incision without its sutures seeems to be spreading apart. It’s possible that the swelling on the sides will dimish with time, but I’ll call the surgeon and ask him to take a look at it early this week. And, I think I see a remaining suture at the very bottom of the incision…
I saw the skin surgeon last week; he did Mohs surgery on my back for the basal site. After the first incision, I waited with Rick in the office for the on-the-spot biopsy. An hour later, a smiling assistant came out to tell us that he did get all of the cancer cells on that first scraping, and I would have sutures put in right then.
This happened the last time I had Mohs surgery for basal carcinoma. My dermatologist is very good at spotting it early, and getting me off to the surgeon for quick action. When I had Mohs surgery for malignant melanoma, it took a few days between surgeries to have the biopsy read, and so back and forth trips were necessary. But they were worth the trouble, as he again was able to get all of the cancer cells before finally suturing it closed.
I’ll be back to see him in about a month to have the sutures removed. Here’s a picture of his fine work!
As his assistant was putting a pressure bandage on to cover the incision and sutures for the first twenty-four hours, he explained that there might be some permanent numbness in the area as nerve endings may have been involved in the surgery. He told us to leave it alone until the next day, then wash it with distilled or boiled water, coat it lightly with aquaphor (a vaseline-type product) and cover it again with a regular bandage. We’re to do that twice a day for three weeks, and then come in for suture removal.
The dermatologist did call, this morning, to say that the biopsy he took earlier this week is basal carcinoma, and so the surgeon will be called to schedule a surgery. At least this one isn’t malignant melanoma, as others have been. Sorry for the mis-information. Onward, ever forward.
And prayers, please, for the people of France.
The weather last week was cool and drizzly, and that was a relief … but this week is pay-back time. The temps are in the nineties, and the humidity is in the high fifties/low sixties. It’s uncomfortable enough that there are very few quilters out and about Row by Rowing for the free quilt patterns. I have AC in the barn, but I don’t mind the slow down. One or two customers per day is just about right for my energy levels in this weather.
I saw the dermatologist again this week; he did find a suspicious spot on my back, did a shave biopsy, but hasn’t called to report any findings (which means no findings, which is good news.) I won’t see him again now for six months – the first time in three years that I’ll have six months free of skin checks!
As for the silent heart attack – it’s been nearly a month since that failed echo ultrasound test, but it was not until today that I succeeded in getting the cardio office to schedule the two-day retake, and that isn’t scheduled for another month … I will interpret that as they’re not being at all alarmed by the evidence of attack damage to my heart that showed up …
I saw the internist who monitors my thyroid and osteoporosis. I filled him in on the recent appoointments, and he and I agreed that trying to schedule all that I’m trying to schedule can rationally push the Reclast treatment off until the fall. I feel the same way about the requested colonoscopy and gall bladder consult.
I will see the neurologist in August … the same week as the second heart echo test. I’ll talk with her about the suggestion that the rib pain I’ve experienced for the past three years may now have been explained by the recent full body b
one scan, which showed a healed fracture in my right lower rib, or may be attributable to the silent heart attack’s evident damage as found in the ultrasound, or perhaps in the gall bladder’s stones. At any rate, it no longer seems to be something to just shrug off as the untreatable MS-Hug symptom.
And while the beat goes on, and on and on, Rick and I are enjoying the care of our grand-bunnies while Rob continues to gradually move into his new home a few miles away. We bought a third cage so they can all have their own space, and we moved them downstairs to the kitchen so we can interact with them more easily on a daily basis, and let them out to roam and explore in the
kitchen. We’ve bought ‘potties’ for each of them, and are encou
raging their use … it’s rather hit or miss for two of them, but the youngest seems to have understood the plan. We have a grass ball that Blizzard and Pumpkin enjoy chasing when I spin it or toss it across the floor. When the weather is good, we take them outside and share the sunshine and shade with them. Life is good.
I was there for an echo-cardio stress test. My new physician has scheduled me for several long-overdue health maintenance tests, and this was one, most likely due to a recent rise in my blood pressure (which I have attributed to my gain of about twenty pounds over the past two years, ) The nurse explained the procedure and said she would do so again as it progressed, step by step, and I thanked her. It started with an EKG (and I don’t know why there is a K in there, instead of a C…) which went well. Next was an ultrasound of the heart.The usual ‘goop’ was applied, and the device began to circle across the left side of my chest. As the technician moved the device below my heart, she hit a sensitive spot, and I told her. She pulled away and then went back and hit it again. She decided then to have the doctor who would be reading the ultrasound to come in and look at it, now rather than later.
The doctor looked at the ultrasound monitor and agreed with the nurse that it was not going to be clear enough for him to make a comparison with the one that would follow the treadmill test, and that another test would be better and directed the tech. to call my doctor and suggest the alternative. He turned to me, then, and asked “When did you have a heart attack?” I thought I misunderstood his question, as he spoke softly and with an accent. I didn’t answer at first, and he repeated “When did you have the heart attack?” I replied to him, then, that I had never had a heart attack. “Yes, you did. There is evidence in the images.”
As we drove home, I tried and tried to remember an incidence that might have been a heart attack. Perhaps when I tripped up the back steps and landed hard on my chest, and stayed on the floor for a few minutes before rising, giving the pain time to pass? Could a fall like that cause a heart attack … and be over in those few minutes? Or could the repetitive nightly episodes of shortness of breath (when I laid down to sleep each night for a few weeks recently) have been a series of small heart attacks – my chest did tighten, side to side, during those episodes, but again, they each only lasted for a few minutes, and then my breathing evened out and remained steady as I fell asleep. That hasn’t happened in the past week – why would it have stopped? I had told our new doctor’s nurse practitioner of those episodes, but as they were brief I thought little of it.
I’ve certainly felt worse pain than either the fall or the breathing/squeezing episodes… I wondered, then, if I might have had a heart attack during a dream, and not realized that it was a real heart attack? My dreams are so vivid, I often am not sure whether they are dreams or reality, until I wake up from them. And even then, when I remember one, I’m not always sure that I am just remembering a dream, or remembering something that really happened and was forgotten for a while…
I’m scheduled to wear a heart monitor next week for a 24 hour period, and I’ll have the alternate stress/echo two-day test later in the week. I won’t know until I meet with the doctor after those test results, and others, are received. But I now know that my heart bears evidence of a heart attack that I don’t remember having. I don’t know yet whether the evidence is of past damage, or of ongoing damage. I wonder now if this is somehow related to the ongoing pain in my lower right ribs .. for which I am scheduled to have a full body bone scan the day before the heart monitor. But that pain is on my right side, not my heart side. It is sometimes a sharp pain, and sometimes an ache, and always hard to describe when asked to do so.
I’ll write more when I know more.
Until then, be well, all.
Forgive me if I’m repeating myself … I can’t remember what I’ve written when I open a blank page to begin again, and if I close this page to go back and read what I’ve already written, I’ll get lost in old posts and forget to come back here to write what I wanted to tell.
We’ve changed primary care doctors because our doctor of the past twenty years just retired unbeknownst to us, and turned over our folders to a young doctor. That doctor was very nice but, starting fresh, ordered some tests, xrays, etc. His office staff was overwhelmed with the influx of new patients and mis-coded much of the insurance billing, resulting in our being billed for hundreds of dollars of tests, which we appealed.
After two months of repeat billing, we chose another primary care doctor on the recommendation of a good friend. This one, also, is taking a fresh start approach; more blood work, different x-rays, etc. but apparently more accurate insurance coding, as we haven’t received a bill from any of the tests yet. But she is being very thorough … I’ve had my head examined (brain Cat Scan), have scheduled with my neurologist (August), and am going tomorrow for a treadmill stress test. Our new doctor would like to solve the mystery of the lower rib pain that re-occurs almost daily. I had a treadmill test about thirty years ago, in my mid-thirties, and was pretty sure they were trying to kill me at the time.
I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with MS then, nor melanoma, and tried my best to keep going as they encouraged me to do. I know they have to do that, to measure the strength of my heart. I did really push at the time, feeling confident that my then strength would impress them. I nearly fell to the floor when I finally stopped, and they hovered a bit leading me to the chair to take the resting heart rate.
This year, I’m not as strong as I was thirty years ago. I’m not as confident, and I surely don’t feel a need to show anyone how strong I am not. I just read a post written by a virtual friend (one known to me only through the internet, but sharing the experience of MS and social networking.) He was questioning his ability to complete a half-marathon with MS, as he just turned forty. He did it, and I’m very happy for him that he did. I commented on his blog that I will keep him in my thoughts tomorrow as I step onto the treadmill. I don’t know whether I will rebel against their insistence that I keep going and stop before I am fully fatigued, or rebel against my waning energy and try to keep going to help them measure my active and resting heart rates. I know what I did in my thirties, akin to what my friend just did as he turned forty. But I wil remind myself, and those testing me, that I am past the midpoint of my sixties…
I’m often at a loss for words when someone asks me “What’s new?” My brain seems to hesitate and hit a pause button, and I search through the now-in-dissaray recorded memory files, trying to remember when I last spoke with this person … what have we already talked about … I don’t want to be repetitive … what has occured since that last meeting? Most often I leave things out rather than risk being redundant, and sometimes leave things out just because they are not relevant to the day. I’m not quick anymore in deciphering, from the tone or the posture or the energy level of the question, whether the person asking wants a health report or a family report, a community response or a weather summary… sometimes the question is intimidating, as the wrong answer may contain the wrong content and might, in turn, earn the asker’s annoyance. I don’t like to annoy. I don’t like to be annoyed, either.Realizing after the fact that I’ve answered wrong is something that weighs me down for the rest of the conversation.
So, while I’m searching through that hesitant pause, a look of sometimes concern, sometimes disinterest, or sometimes amusement might flash across the questioner’s eyes; that’s when I’ll snap back and repeat something inane that I’d seen on the news, or read online somewhere. Or I’ll comment on the weather while steering clear of complaining about it. It has been an unusually calm Spring, yet the meteorologist revel in making comparisons to “the hottest” or “the stormiest” or “the dryest” or “the wettest” or “the coldest” on record … comparisons that are hyperbole at best, and really not worth affirming. The weather is what it is, and tomorrow will be what it will be. When there is no danger to warn against, no expected calamity for which to prepare, I think the meterologists ought to be furloughed until needed again. They seem to be doubling up on local ‘news’ broadcasts, and taking expensive minutes away from reporters who could be covering real news.
Once, I would perhaps have answered with a political observation, given that this is an election year. But sadly, the pundits are acting like the meteorologists: they compete with each other, highlighting the sad state of affairs surrounding this year’s presidential election – there is too much commentary and repeat coverage on too much vulgar, hateful spats between candidates, but to bring it into a conversation as an answer to “What’s new” would elicit its own negative response … I no longer presume to understand, or want to understand who’s voting for whom… People sometimes surprise me by telling me their choice, but more often it’s left untold. I’ve been public about my liberal democratic leanings and don’t have to proclaim them any more. My beliefs and values remain the same. Those who know me logically know that I will support people of like minds. But once again, as has often happened, my choice may not be the party’s choice. But my party’s choice will have to be mine. I could never vote the other way.
I read an interesting article yesterday concerning the Republican presumed nominee. In it, the writer positions Trump as a candidate ‘too sick to lead, with a lethal personality disorder or narcissism.’ I shared that link to the article and headed the shared post with my own suggestion: The emperor has no clothes. I truly believed at the outset he may well have entered this campaign to show that he was rich enough to do so, or to expose the process for the charade it has become … but it seems now, as he has the majority of delegates’ nominative votes, that he intends to stay in and become the November name on the final ballot. What a mockery of our inclusive republic he will be … what a global humiliation for Americans who truly understand and live by our constitution and laws. What will this election’s historical label be? What will future American generations write of us? Who in the world beyond our borders will ever respect us again?
So my respose to “What’s new?” will become the evasive answer that is but a question in itself … “Not much … what’s new with you?”
For those asking in a vein of health concern … I’m going to see the dermatologist next week, a month early, as a rash is developing on both forearms, one centered over the original melanoma site. I’m doing this beause the larger melanoma site on my back began first exhibited as a similar rash. I’ll schedule an appointment with the neurologist to discuss the steady burning/scalding sensation in my right arm, and ask whether my new nurse practitioner’s recommendation for a brain scan would be better served wit
h an MRI, as it’s been five years since my last one (I think.) I’ve overlooked my usual May visit with the enterologist who monitors my thyroid cyst and osteoporosis treatment, so the June Reclast treatment probably won’t happen until fall. I’ve decided to disontinue the talk therapy with the psychologist but keep her phone number handy and call her if a need arises, and she is in full agreement with that. And I’ll slow the visits to the psychiatrist to every three months instead of two, as the medication seems to be working fine and needs no further adjustments at this time.
As always, I wish you well!
And here’s the article on Trump’s narcissism: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-north-patterson/too-sick-to-lead-the-leth_b_10086768.html
I continue to live happily ever after in the land of denial as far as MS is concerned. I accept that the “benign MS” diagnosis nine years ago as it has been recently described: a condition with ‘only’ cognitive symptoms…
Yes, I acknowledge that my short tem memory is gone … but most of my friends admit to theirs also having disappeared. I am now in the second half of my sixties … closer to 70 than to 60. I am reliant on writing notes to myself, on keeping a written calendar with me, on looking often at the date on the computer’s calendar, and of asking Rick at the start of each day what we have to do that day.
My sense of scent is also gone … which is a blessing most often, especially when cleaning out the bunnies’ cages occasionally. Or when a skunk hides under the barn. I don’t smell food cooking, and with the loss of scent, I’ve had a partial loss of taste. So I don’t really miss roast beef or turkey gravy anymore. And I can still taste, and enjoy, dark chocolate, so there’s that.
My typically weak sense of direction now includes loss of direction of sound … although I’m beginning to compensate for that – if I hear something to my left, I now know to look to my right, and vice versa.
But today brought something new. Actually, it started yesterday, or maybe was a result of last week. Because last week I went out to help a customer in the shop who innocently arrived in our driveway, not realizing that we are closed for these two months. And on that day, temperatures were in single digits, and the barn, of course, was very cold. I found a fabric she liked, and cut it with scissors – my very cold metal scissors, and my fingers went numb. Within a few minutes of further chatter, I began to feel very dizzy, and sat down. Rick was there, too, and he finished the transaction with her as I headed into the house, excusing myself. And once I was inside, I passed out.
It surprised me, as I hadn’t done that since discontinuing the MS injections (which had always temporarily lowered my blood pressure, and sometimes caused dizziness and fainting. But I realized later that, with both cold hands and feet, and standing for more than a few moments in a very cold space, my blood had no doubt rushed to warm those extremeties, leaving my head with less blood volume, and so lower blood pressure, dizziness, and a faint.
I was fine in short order once back in the warm house, and for the next few days as well. But yesterday, I woke up with a very warm right hand, and a very cold left hand. I thought it must be the way I’d slept with one arm under my pillow. But when I took a shower, I realized that my left hand felt no discomfort and my right hand felt as though the water was scalding hot (it was not.) My arms were as disparate in temperature as my hands were … I asked Rick when I got downstairs to feel my hands and tell me if the temperature of each was the same as the other, and he said they were. Strange, I thought, for they felt so different to me.
Today, we went to the library and tidied up the book nook, then I joined a group of quilters for a sew-in. When I rested my right wrist on the bed of the sewing machine, I felt a sharp pain in my forearm. When I did so with my left wrist, I felt nothing. My right arm grew warmer and warmer (to me) but the color of both arms remained the same. My left arm felt nothing … and my right arm felt hot and painful.
A few hours later, Rick and I met my sisters and husbands for lunch, and my right hand continued to feel hot as we walked from our vehicle to the restaurant. The weather was beautiful – in the fifties, and I was wearing a sweatshirt rather than a jacket. The difference in temperature between left and right continued in my arms, and seemed to have spread the heat to my right leg (but, again, not to the left.) Rick thought my left heel was dragging on the sidewalk as we walked, but I was unaware of it.
Tonight, as I sit here typing, my right hand, which is usually colder than the left because the unlit fireplace is to my right and there is sometimes a draft on that side of the couch, continued to feel as though I had a ‘fever’ in my hand and arm. If it were my left arm, I would worry about a heart attack. But it is not, and so I am not worrying … just observing, and puzzling as to what this might be.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Mother Nature seems, too, to have a broken thermometer this season … single digits one day, fifties and sixties the next, then back down, and then today, back up. As Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.”
Rick and I celebrate Christmas more quietly than we did as a young couple with children. In our hearts, we keep
Christmas all year long. We never take the trees down in the shop, using them as backdrops for Rick’s wooden ornaments and now my sewing notions. The manger in our living room stays up all year long, and the nutcrackers and angels are always in their places on the mantel. Each year we hang a large wreath on the street side of our house, and one on the front door. The candles stay in the windows, though they are not lit until the day after Thanksgiving, and are not lit again after New Year’s Day.
But this year, while all of that did continue, we never set up the Christmas tree in the parlor. We didn’t hang the garland and red bows on the white picket fence, and we didn’t wrap the post lantern with colored lights. We didn’t replace the window frame lights on the front of the shop, and we didn’t play Christmas music in the shop. Still, we greeted friends and customers with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year.”
It’s not that Christmas slipped past us; rather, we slipped past Christmas. The weather was all wrong … sixty degrees on Christmas Eve, no snow to reflect outdoor lights hung on the fence … We did go to Maine for the day itself, and enjoyed the company there of our grandchildren and daughter. But we didn’t go to my sister’s house Christmas night as we usually do. And there were some other gatherings in the family to which we weren’t invited … most likely because they occurred on Christmas Eve when we would normally be in Maine but weren’t this year. The grandkids were elsewhere with the other half of their family until noon on Christmas, when we arrived and they arrived almost simultaneously.
Families without young children behave differently on holidays … families without elders also behave differently on holidays. And holidays that occur on weekends seem a bit more rushed than those that cause days to be observed in the middle of a work week. Holidays that occur after retirement are also somewhat less remarkable as a day off in retirement is like any other day off in retirement. Social circles are smaller, as there are no colleagues and work mates with whom to anticipate the release and celebrate the season.
For Rick and me, our circles are changing. We have a close circle of friends that have become our local family, and we celebrated New Years’ Eve with some of them. We talked that evening of what retirement has brought to our lives. We talked about preferred ages or life stages. We talked about the constant struggles of our younger years, and the sudden loss of responsibilities to others that retirement brings. Some of us spoke of our favorite ages … or our most comfortable ‘inner’ age. I thought of having always felt forty – as a child I felt the responsibilities of getting myself to school safely on the buses or trains of the city; of being a parent just a year after being a bride, of spending years of energy, time and money becoming a teacher, of feeling confident and valued in my forties as a functioning adult.
My late forties and early fifties were consumed by elder care, teaching, and eventually my own diagnoses. My late fifties and early sixties have continued the diagnoses and treatments, medications, surgeries and seemingly endless scheduling of medical appointments. My long-sought career of teaching ended at the beginning of my sixties, bringing on depression and self doubt. I entered retirement reluctantly, and somewhat resentfully, having experienced serious cognitive limitations and sudden loss of professional confidence.
Rebelliously, I set out to re-establish my identity in the only way I could; I wrote several books in the first two years, and published them. I opened a quilt shop and learned how to use social media to publicize the business. I joined town committees as a volunteer, and took on some responsibilities until I realized that the cognitive challenges I was facing were more than I could ignore, and I learned how to step back and let others better equipped take on those challenges. I learned to be a supporter rather than a player.
When I talked in mind mapping today about my routine day vs. my ideal day, and drew a pie graph to clarify how my days are spent and how I wish they were spent, I had a more clear self image. I understand the limitations imposed by the ‘cog fog’ I have each day. I cannot make decisions on the spot as I once did, and had to, as a teacher. I cannot multi-task and pay attention to more than one person at a time in a group. I have not yet disposed of the crates of lesson plans, rank books, spread sheets and resource folders I relied on as a teacher, though they offer nothing to me since retirement. I cannot bring myself to dispose of the hundreds of envelopes of spiritual cards and funeral blessings that continue to arrive at my address in my name, in my mother’s name, and my father’s name. I have fabric projects in process in almost every room of the house now, and the mental weight of the unfinished works paralyzes me. I have characters in a book half-written and now still waiting during more than a year of procrastination. I have books that I want to read that I cannot concentrate on and so cannot benefit from. I am humbled and yes, I am saddened. But I am not depressed enough anymore to want to give up.
Why does my energy lift when I am in the shop? The found answer to my friends’ question startled me … that the household clutter makes my home mentally exhausting to me. Clearing out is a challenge that faces all of us in retirement; recognizing that was reassuring … we each have a lifetime’s accumulation of clutter … to know that I am not the only one dealing with clutter-smothering… to know that my friends allow me to be me, to speak honestly with me about limitations without judging me as failing to do what ought to be done. My friends share their worries and self-doubts and deep wishes with me, validating that they trust me to listen well, and to make suggestions where I can and just be supportive when I can’t.
And Rick — always my best friend, now, and back during the darker times, and further back during the brighter times, but still, now, during the daunting times … Rick also listens to me with compassion, and shares my worries
and his own worries openly, validating that both of us have faced and continue to face challenges and limitations, and that we both have not given up or given in, and have much still that we want to and will accomplish in these years ahead. Together we continue, and together we will find the enjoyment in happily-ever-after-retirement. We will continue to walk upright together, with our friends at our sides sharing the sunlight and casting
shadows where we will.
But there is a contest being run by Healthline.com, interesting in finding the best health blogs for the year. I don’t post very often, but when I do, it is to update friends, family and followers of recent health related events.
Last year a blogger I follow regularly won one of the three cash prizes, and that inspired me to give it a try. Look to the right sidebar and you’ll find the link to click. When the page opens, you can search for my blog title (Terry’s Thoughts and Threads) and click ‘vote’ when it appears. That’s it. (well, they will ask whether you want to vote as a Facebook user or a Twitter user …) You can vote for multiple blogs each day … and you can vote every day!
If you’ve found my blog interesting, or helpful, please give it a vote? And vote often ~ every day through January 21st. It’s always worth reaching for the stars!
By the way, there are multiple topic pages as part of this blog … see the very top of the post? Click on one of the titles there, and an additional page will open!