Friday, January 25, 2013

Moving and Shaking

LOTS of positive things going on right now in my life (karma, this is NOT a challenge!). This week has been so busy!

* In process of having a TON of home repairs done as part of weatherization and home repair loan programs. This will get so many things off my "to-do" list and relieve a ton of stress. Right now all the specs are being drawn up and have had a contractor walk-through this week (might need another one, not sure) as well as an energy audit yesterday. Bids are due in by next week and then the loan closing will be scheduled and work begun. Among several other repairs, getting a new roof and the wet, uninsulated basement is going to get fixed!! This is HUGE.

* My poor car took a rock to the windshield last Saturday when Kira and I went to the mall so she could spend some of her Christmas money. There's about an 8-10 inch crack across the driver's side that continues to spread. The windshield people are (supposedly) coming today to fix that. They were originally scheduled for Wednesday, but it has been so cold here--the temperature was below zero on Wednesday--that they had to reschedule. It's about 13° here now, so hopefully that's warm enough. Anyway, while it sucks about the windshield, it's getting fixed and it's not costing as much money as I had originally thought it would, so yay.

* The 'coach' for Kira's school basketball team is not going to get re-hired next year. This is very, very good news. She was HORRIBLE. Fortunately we had some excellent volunteer assistant coaches who actually did all the real coaching for the season. There were three: Max (a friend of Mark's who is also very passionate about basketball), Pete (dad of one of the players who has also been on most of the other teams Kira has played for), and occasionally Mark, when he hasn't had play practice. Max and Pete were there for every practice and every game, thank God.

* Kira's travel team tryouts are this Sunday. She's going to have an EXCELLENT coach, who she's worked with before and likes very much. He's also dad to one of Kira's best friends (who she met through these basketball programs), he coached one of the middle school teams this year, and his older daughter has coached at the high school level. Kira is excited. She was -not- looking forward to playing travel team if she had had to have the same coach as last year. Also, this is going to be a 7th and 8th grade team, so she's going to get to work with some other excellent players, who she'll eventually be playing high school ball with.

* I've been asked to run the website for Kira's travel team. That will be awesome. Also a great way for me to be involved -other- than doing something with fundraising or other stuff that would require a lot of direct interaction with people I don't know. I'm really psyched about this. :D

* Max is running an after-season "clinic" for the kids who are interested in playing for the school teams next year. I'm helping him out with that, too, and Kira's going to be participating whenever it's not a conflict with her travel team. He's not sure how long it'll last, but I'm betting at least a month. First one is on Monday.

* The annual student-staff basketball game is on Wednesday. It's always fun for the kids to do, and Max gets to play for the staff (much protest from his players, as they've tried playing against him in drills). Mark is going to be coaching the students, which is a mix of the boys' and girls' teams. Lots of fun all around.

* Post-op appointment in Portland on Tuesday. Anticipating good results from that, I'm healing quite well.

* A friend saw a pair of basketball earrings that I made and have worn to all of the games this season. She loved them and asked me to make her a pair, that she would pay me for. I gave her the at-cost price and she refused, insisting that she needs to pay me more than that. She also does a lot of craft fairs (she makes the most awesome ornaments) and offered to sell some earrings for me at her table, so I've been designing some earrings (so far I have 15 different designs). Lots of fun, something a little different for me to do. I probably won't make much money at it, but hey, any little bit would just be bonus. I'm going to make her take either a commission or some earrings in exchange for doing that for me. Fun stuff!

So overall, good stuff. *knocking much wood* Again, karma: Not. A. Challenge. ~mk

Friday, January 11, 2013

All I Want For Christmas is Major Abdominal Surgery

Warning: Very. Lengthy. Post.

Quite awhile ago (oh, probably a year...and shush, I know) I noticed this feeling like I had a tennis ball stuck under my lower right rib cage. I only felt this while I was lying down, like when I was trying to go to sleep at night. It didn't hurt, exactly, more just like a pressure. So, naturally, being me, I ignored it.

Well, it didn't go away. I started noticing it more often, and during the day, and while I was sitting and standing. Just this pressure. Occasionally there would be real pain with it, but it wasn't there all the time. So I ignored it.

Finally it was there all the time, and it was hard to take a deep breath. It wasn't going away. So I called my doctor's office to have them take a look at it. This was in October. My PA checked it out, and agreed that it was palpable, but that she didn't really know what it was. She referred me to a local surgeon, who would be the one who would have to treat it anyway, she said. Amazingly, I was able to get in for an appointment just two days later.

The surgeon didn't seem particularly impressed or indicate that she could feel anything at all. Kind of made me think that it was all in my head, in fact. But, she referred me for a CT scan of the area "just in case" and made a followup appointment for me for three weeks later.

The CT scan was on Oct 29th. My followup appointment was on Nov 14th. Now that I had finally decided to do something about this, I was terribly impatient to get results and find out what was going on. But noooooo, I had to wait another 2.5 weeks.

November 14th FINALLY came, and again the surgeon just kind of brushed everything off. She sort of just tossed into the conversation that oh, by the way, the CT scan showed a "large paraesophageal hernia", and oh yeah, that my stomach was on the wrong side. (Seriously. The stomach is supposed to be on the left side. Mine's on the right. Figures.) She said she'd have to refer me to a surgeon down in Portland, because nobody in our area did that kind of surgery anymore. Yay. More running around.

*Sidebar for a little medical lesson:
The diaphragm separates the abdominal and chest cavities. There is a small opening in the diaphragm, the hiatus, where the esophagus enters and connects to the stomach. The most common hiatal hernia, the sliding hiatal, is when the stomach -and- the lower esophageal joint slide through the hiatus into and out of the chest cavity. A very uncommon type of hiatal hernia, the paraesophageal hernia (PEH), is where the lower esophageal joint stays in the abdomen, and just the stomach squeezes up into the chest. Only about 5% of hiatal hernias are paraesophageal. PEHs are dangerous because they can strangulate. In addition to that, the stomach -never- comes back down into the abdomen of its own accord, and in fact continues to push further and further into the chest cavity. When a PEH is symptomatic, as mine was, surgery is ALWAYS indicated.
*End sidebar. ;)

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday and, quite frankly, some ball-dropping between the two medical offices, I didn't find out when my appointment with the new surgeon was until after Thanksgiving. Aaaaand, the soonest they could get me in was December 12th.

By this time I was more than a little bit of a nervous wreck. I was having a very hard time taking any deep breath of any kind, eating most foods made me nauseous and fairly often I ended up vomiting. I lost ten pounds in about three weeks. (Can't really complain about that, although the method sucked.)

My parents drove me down to Portland because I really didn't feel up to driving myself that distance. There was a long wait in the waiting room, followed by an even longer wait in the exam room, before the doctor came in. I have to say, I was thoroughly unimpressed by this time. And -this- was the guy who was supposed to operate?

Well, he was MUCH better in person, and it turns out he's just incredibly overbooked because he's the best one in the area to do this type of surgery and he keeps having emergency stuff pop up on him. We talked everything over, and he was just excellent at explaining everything that was going on and what he was going to do, and putting me at ease. I also found out that about half of my stomach was in my chest cavity and that when I had the emergency surgery back in 2008, the scans showed the hernia then! (And nobody mentioned it!) The doctor did find it very interesting that I didn't have any symptoms of GERD, which usually goes hand-in-hand with hiatal hernias. He said that it was also very unusual to have such a large hernia and have it be so symptomatic at my age. Apparently I'm a few decades younger than his usual PEH patient.

His nurse set aside a surgery date for me at Maine Medical Center (my insurance required it to be at a major hospital rather than at the smaller clinic that he does many of the procedures at) for February 15th, but told me not to even bother to write down the time because she was going to get me in earlier than that; she just had to have me on the books first.

Well. The woman does NOT screw around. My appointment with the surgeon was on December 12th. She called me on December 17th to tell me that my surgery had been rescheduled for December 19th. Holy fuck!!

Well, not so fast. Turns out another of the emergency cases popped up for the doctor, so she called me back later that night to tell me that it had been moved to December 21st. And yes, that date stuck.

SO. December 21st I stopped eating or drinking anything after midnight, drove down to Portland with my parents, went to Maine Med and finished up registration (which had been done mostly over the phone on the 19th and 20th) and at about 2:30 they went in laparoscopically and did something like this:

(Not me, and not done at the same hospital or by the same team, but similar procedure)

So anyway. One night in the hospital, and now I'm in the long, irritating recovery stages. Liquid diet for a few days has now progressed to some solid foods (although they don't always work out). It'll take about 8 weeks, give or take, to get back to my regular diet. I've just finished week 3. *sigh* There's a long list of no-no foods, and no carbonated beverages, caffeine, or alcohol for 8 weeks. The last foods that I should add back are breads (naturally---I'm a carb addict!) and steak, since those are the hardest to digest. It's very much a two-step-forward-one-step-back process. For example, last night I tried macaroni and cheese. Mushy, right? You'd think that'd be ok, fairly easy to digest. Yeah, no. My stomach was not pleased. However, I -was- able to tolerate a Wicked Whoopie pie. :D

I have five little scars on my abdomen that will eventually fade (mostly). I've still got some swelling in the area, although that's going down now. I'm still restricted on what I can do, mostly to avoid straining the abdominal area, so things like not lifting or doing a lot of bending or twisting, and if I caught a stomach virus and started vomiting, I would have to go straight to the ER because that kind of intra-abdominal pressure could rip out everything. (And there's a really nasty virus going 'round. Lovely.)

I have to keep reminding myself that I've had major abdominal surgery, even though I -look- fine and a lot of the time I -feel- ok. I get tired incredibly easily, and if I eat the wrong food I have an amazing amount of pain in my stomach or digestive tract (I know, TMI, but isn't this whole thing, really?). I have to be careful and take care of myself, and *gasp* ask for help. None of those are things I'm good at. Gah. Well, I'm learning. Kind of. :P

Anyway. That was my Christmas vacation. ~mk

p.s. (and I could totally have summed this ENTIRE entry up into this: yeah, I had some surgery in December to pull about half of my stomach out of my chest cavity. Weird, huh?) ~mk

p.p.s. I also find it interesting that I'm apparently having surgery every two years these days. Ginormous tumor/cyst removed (along with an ovary) in 2008; endometrial ablation in 2010; paraesophageal hernia repair in 2012. Seriously, WTF? ~mk

101 List: 2013 version

OK, so I enjoyed the last 101 List in 1001 Days so much that I've decided to do it again. Here's my new, 2013 version. I'll be updating the list as I go along, with a link in the sidebar that tells the status of each item, in case anyone's interested. ;)

101 Things in 1001 Days

Start Date: January 11, 2013
End Date: October 9, 2015

Green items: done (with completion date)
Orange items: currently underway (with progress noted)

  1. Go out of the country
  2. Make out my will
  3. Find out the kids’ blood types (called Dr. 1/11/13; called Hospital Patient Records, releases being sent; received releases)
  4. Donate blood at least eight times (2/4/13; )
  5. Finish FAFSA for Mark (Feb 2013)
  6. Revive “Anti-Procrastination Wednesday”
  7. Buy a stock of some kind
  8. Get rid of the Intrepid (10/4/13)
  9. Get to 170 pounds (5/23/13)
  10. Get to 149 pounds
  11. Have a mammogram (7/16/13)
  12. Set up an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin-check
  13. Six consecutive weeks of exercise at least three times a week (30 minutes min)
  14. Go one week eating only unprocessed foods
  15. Drink at least 64 oz of water every day for four consecutive weeks
  16. Go bike riding
  17. Buy myself a real raincoat (5/11/13)
  18. Get new camera (from Mark & Courtney 5/11/13)
  19. Have a massage
  20. Get a decent laptop (12/2013, 09 MacBook)
  21. Get a henna or airbrush tattoo
  22. Get a “Wreck This Journal” 1/26/13 @ TJMaxx
  23. Use up all my gift cards (TJMaxx & WalMart done; found another TJ's card eek)
  24. Write more thank-you notes & send more birthday cards
  25. Carry my camera –everywhere- for one week; take TONS of photos
  26. Spend the afternoon at the ocean, just me and a book
  27. Watch Brenda play hockey
  28. Go to a roller derby
  29. Go out to a restaurant I’ve never been to (Come Spring Cafe, March '13)
  30. See at least five movies at the theatre (Frozen 12/13; Catching Fire 12/13;)
  31. Stay overnight in a state other than Maine or Massachusetts
  32. See an IMAX movie
  33. Live at camp for a week
  34. Go to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show
  35. Go white-water rafting or canoeing
  36. Spend a weekend (at least 2 days/1 night) at camp completely alone
  37. Go hiking at least 3 times
  38. Go to a college-level or higher sporting event
  39. Take Kira to Paris, Maine
  40. Go to an amusement park
  41. Go to a water park with the kids; go on at least one ride/slide/whatever
  42. Take the kids to the ocean for a day; bring a picnic
  43. Go for a walk in the rain (at least 30 minutes)
  44. Go horseback riding
  45. Get some sky-lanterns; release at night (on the Evans 9/29/13)
  46. Host a sleepover party for Kira (New Year's Eve 2013)
  47. Send a care package to Mark at college
  48. Create a font out of my handwriting
  49. Learn 25 ASL signs
  50. Renew library membership
  51. Revive the blog: post at least weekly for three consecutive months [TAKE NOTE!]
  52. Watch five “classic” or famous movies that I haven’t seen
  53. Use my firepit
  54. Take a new family photo (Mark's graduation 6/7/13)
  55. Have a Harry Potter movie marathon
  56. Watch a meteor shower from the float at camp
  57. Try new recipes from five different cultures (Argentina 2/11/13; Bhutan 5/16/13; China 1/1/14; Germany 1/5/14)
  58. Learn to knit –and- purl
  59. Build a gingerbread house
  60. Make a quilt with Kira
  61. Bake bread five times
  62. Make a pie on Pi Day (3/14/13: apple, choc cream, chicken pot pie)
  63. Make & organize a collection of “favorite” recipes
  64. Participate in Operation Beautiful (
  65. Finish cataloging DVDs
  66. Create backup discs of all photos
  67. Reorganize computer
  68. Set up regular backup of computer
  69. Build or get a monitor stand
  70. PAINT KIRA’S ROOM (5/18/13 finished! frozen petite violet)
  71. Paint ceiling in bedroom
  72. Repaint the stairs & bannister
  73. Paint the kitchen
  74. Install new ceiling tiles in dining room
  75. Replace the kitchen lights
  76. Fix wiring for downstairs
  77. Fix basement water problem (March '13)
  78. Replace sliding glass door
  79. New flooring in bathroom (installed 3/1/13)
  80. Clear out playroom
  81. Clean out my bedroom
  82. Clean out and reorganize third floor (cleaned out, needs reorganizing)
  83. Clean out garage
  84. Clean out above garage
  85. Sell some things on Facebook Yard Sale page (posted cookie jar 2/12/13)
  86. Organize & get rid of some books
  87. Get a new lamp for my bedroom (maybe two) (repaired old lamp June '13)
  88. Frame “Knot”
  89. Frame “Blue Nude”
  90. Paint the fence
  91. Paint and assemble the Adirondack chair
  92. Build shed doors
  93. Crushed rock floor for side shed
  94. Fix window in side shed
  95. Clear out rock garden & redesign
  96. Divide and transplant bleeding heart & Autumn Joy sedum
  97. Scrape, sand & paint doors outside
  98. Plant something under front windows
  99. Fix up mailbox
  100. Create new 101 list before end date
  101. Save $5 for every completed item on this list. ($90 as of 1/6/14; envelope in 2nd drawer)
Wish me luck, people! ~mk