Thursday, April 28, 2016

What a stupid difference a stupid year makes

Fuck.

Fuck!

FUCK!

FUUUUUCK!!!!

I have to have another total knee replacement. My right knee has now decided to say "fuck you" to the world and give up.

FUUUUCK!

I was not expecting this today. I thought I'd get another shot or something. Anything. But no. Total goddamn replacement in my right knee. It has been a long time coming, that's for sure. I injured it the first time when I was 18 years old (in a snowball fight, no less). I subsequently injured it eight more times over twenty years- the most recent time being March 3, 2006. That was what led up to the left total knee replacement in 2009.

So, last year... last year, I had knee pain and went to see my knee surgeon. And, I wrote a blog post about it- "Life is funny sometimes, but life is also a jerk sometimes"- and I included helpful photos. After I got over my initial shock- because believe me, there was shock and MASSIVE self-control to not blurt out the word "FUCK" repeatedly- I said, "I don't know what to do... I have so much stuff- I have plans." and inside my head, I'm going over the ren faire dates- like Janesville Ren Faire on May 14 and 15. Bristol starts on July 9th this year. Then Stronghold and a week later, A Gathering of Rogues & Ruffians. And let's not forget TeslaCon in November.

FUCK!

My right knee is MUCH worse than my left knee was when I had it replaced seven years ago. But, I had to ask, why doesn't the right one hurt as much as the left one did seven years ago?

Turns out- Fibrofuckingmyalgia.

Undiagnosed, untreated fibro caused my recovery to be a nightmare the first time. Every time I took two steps forward, I'd fall back one. It was a battle. A long, boring, painful battle. But I eventually got through it (especially after they started treating me for fibro).

This time around, I'm on three different drugs to live with the fibro. I take Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril, a muscle relaxer), and Duloxetine (Cymbalta). My body does not process pain properly anymore. Partially due to fibro, partially due to all the drugs I take for fibro. So, my body and brain weren't perceiving this pain as bad as it is, but if someone else had this knee, well, they'd be crying and swearing more than I was while I was driving home today.

There are some differences between my first total knee replacement and now. One, both my parents are gone now and I really just want my mommy. Two, despite still being fat (yes, I'm fat; don't sugarcoat it for me, I'll just eat it), I am in way better shape than I was then. Back then, I'd spent three years as a sedentary human. I did as little as possible for activity. And while I'm not running marathons and lifting all the weights at the gym, I am doing more and of course- ren faire walking (that's the same as regular walking, but you look fabulous doing it). Part of that is that I've been using my left leg exclusively to go up and down the stairs. When I had my first knee replaced, my right leg was still weirdly injured and not as strong as it should have been. I had a lot of trouble with stairs. Third, I am way, way, way more motivated than I've ever been in my life. I have approximately seven weeks between surgery day and opening weekend of Bristol. And I am not going to miss faire. I will not miss Bristol. Ever. My parents always said they wouldn't die during my faire season and goddammit, if they could schedule their deaths during the winter just so I wouldn't have to miss faire or photo editing time, then I will be goddamned ready to go to Bristol when it happens. I don't care if I have to drag my ass around with my walker. I WILL NOT MISS BRISTOL!

*deep breath*

What was my point? I don't even know if I had one. I have to get my goddamned knee replaced. I have to recover from that in seven weeks. It was such a shock because I was honestly not expecting him to say I'd need surgery. At the very least, not total knee replacement. In just over two weeks, my knees will be fully cyborg. I expect to be a full android by the time I'm 65. I wonder if I still have to go to the doctor then or if I just get my oil changed at Jiffy Lube.

Here are some photos of my X-rays. The dates are on them, from 2009 to today. You can see how quickly my knee deteriorated in the past year.

I was at the doctor to get checked out because I slipped on the ice and wanted to make sure I wasn't further damaged (he did an X-ray on my cyborg knee too). But this was my right knee then... it still had some cartilage in it.


May 5th, 2015... last year, when I got a cortisone shot in it. (I added that text last year, I added the May 5th part today. Don't judge me!).


And, here we have today...



Yeah. Quite a shock, isn't it? It looks like my leg bone is sliding off my shinbone.

Just a year... this definitely explains why I had so much trouble walking around at the faire, the other faire, that other faire too, Teslacon, and the Midwest Horse Fair two weeks ago.

Here's a zoom-in on all three X-rays.













Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Stuff about Open Carpal Tunnel Surgery and of course, the fibro...

First, let's cover the surgery thing. I didn't- as I'd mentioned in that video- update anyone after the cast thing came off my hand. So, let's start there... sort of.

If you're on my Facebook, you know how it has been going, because I did not one update, not two updates, not three, or four, not even five (which was the start of the second surgery). I did six, seven, eight, nine  updates on my Facebook. All my posts are public, so you should be able to see them.

My first surgery was amazing. Every single day felt like an improvement and within two weeks, I got most of the feeling back in my fingers. Just the very tips of my index and middle fingers are a bit tingly. But, I can feel things with them- including hot, cold, wet, or dry. My second surgery wasn't quite as fun. The pain after surgery was much, much worse. I spent a lot more time elevating and icing than I had to with the first. Even now, I sometimes have to wear a brace to do things- but the weird thing is that I don't have to wear any kind of brace to sleep with anymore. I've slept with braces on my hands for more than ten years. I was worried I wouldn't be able to fall asleep without them, but I adapted very quickly.

Here's a list of things I wish I knew ahead of my first surgery-

1- if you take a fistful of pills in the morning like I do, get yourself one of those days-of-the-week/month pill holders and set that shit up BEFORE  you go in for surgery. I didn't. Didn't even cross my mind. I take some vitamins (prescribed) and some other blood pressure and edema-related pills every morning. And I take a small amount of pills at night (pain meds, muscle relaxers, fibro med).

2- Get bottles without a childproof cap. My pain meds were in the super-dynamic-engineering type of bottle. I had serious problems getting into my bottles. The spouse- you know him, The Disabled Guy- only has the use of one hand himself, so the two of us trying to wedge a childproof cap off a Vicodin bottle was pretty hilarious... not as hilarious as the two of us one-handed wonders trying to get my giant DDD-cup bra on in the morning. Boy, THAT was an experience in pain and hilarity.

3- Get frozen meals or pre-cook/freeze meals. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a disabled spouse who is always home. He handled cooking okay and we had takeout and frozen pizza a lot. (he doesn't like to cook very much).

4- Train all of your pets ahead of time to bring you shit. Not actual shit, that's gross. Like, food and drink. Ice packs. Pain medicine. That remote control you kept dropping behind the sofa because you thought setting it on the pillow next to your swollen hand was a good idea.

5- Chihuahuas make good nurses. At least, in THEIR mind, they do.

Here is a link to a photo of  my left hand with stitches visible, and the right one with stitches and bruising. Here's one of just the scars (at four weeks and six weeks). They're not so bad right now, they look more like a slight discoloration than surgical scars.

Now that's out of the way, let's move on to the fibro thing. I think my Generic-Cymbalta-for-fibro has stopped working. I've been dealing with almost-daily flareup pain for just over a month. I have my semi-annual followup appointment two days from this typing. It started just like last time- I couldn't tell if it was the weather or if I was having issues with the medicine. I even thought that it was related to my hand surgery because that second one sucked a lot more for pain/issues. But it isn't that either. I didn't try to get in at the VA earlier, because I already have this appointment scheduled, so I just let the days drag on till now.

That said, the other day, I picked up some potted flowers at that big orange box store because it'd been SO LONG since I held my beloved Nikon in my hands. And I got a few really nice macro shots of flowers. And now, I share those with you, because what better way to end a blog update full of Facebook links and Mom Jokes? Enjoy!

This is the first batch of photos I have taken since my open carpal tunnel release surgeries. I did do a few snowflake macros in February, but I still had the cast on my arm, so it wasn't much effort to hold the camera. This day, however, I learned just where the pain was internally.

Despite the pain in my hand (which I controlled a bit by wearing a soft Neoprene wrist brace), I loved being outside to take photos again. In the weeks leading up to my surgeries (which were January 22nd and February 5th), I didn't have much chance to do a lot of photos (drab weather, lack of indoor flowers).


Begonias

Begonias

Cyclamen

Yellow Daisy

Yellow Daisy

Tiny purple flowers

Tiny purple flowers

This is the fingertip of my pinky finger. For size reference.

Day 27 of Year 7- Ohhh, yeah!

Tiny purple flowers

Hot pink. Maybe purple.

Hot pink. Maybe purple.

Begonias

Begonias

Cyclamen

Yellow Daisy

Purple? Pink? Could be either!

In the sun

Yellow Daisy in the sun

Yellow Daisy in the sun




Saturday, January 23, 2016

ZOMBIE ARM!! I mean, the open Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

I did a video since I'm only able to type one-handed and I think faster than I can type with one hand.  In the video, I mentioned some photos and I'm sharing them here.



 On the way to the hospital... not nervous at all!




At the hospital... still totally not nervous at all...



Snazzy jewelry!



Sexy hospital gown!!



The doctor laughed when I took this photo.



Super-sexy hat!!



ZOMBIE ARM!!



A photo posted by Pahz (@pahz_on_instagram) on


A photo posted by Pahz (@pahz_on_instagram) on


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Well... this is a blog post.

As my last post mentioned, I had to get a test done- EMG. WELL... turns out, that's one of the MANY things that the VA hospital will not see me for- and for good reason, really. I'm not a veteran. I'm the spouse of a 100% service-connected disabled veteran. While I can get almost everything I need done at the VA, there are a few specialties that they won't cover because they're high demand for actual veterans. And that's fine. What's not fine is that the list of things they will and will not cover changes often. I never know what's going to come up as not covered. BUT- the VA doctors can give me a consultation letter to see a non-VA doctor and the CHAMPVA insurance will pay for it like any other health insurance (meaning we have a cost-share and deductible).

So, that call I was waiting to make that I mentioned before? That was the Patient Administrative Services calling to tell me they weren't going to let me see a rheumatologist because they couldn't allow me to be a "new patient". Except I'm not a "new patient". I saw the rheumatology clinic for my fibro diagnosis and initial treatment. Then they kicked me back to my GP for the maintenance care. If I had been to the rheumatology within the last two years, I'd be allowed back... but their policy to kick me back to the GP... you see the circle-jerk in that whole thing? Yeah.

Anyway, after I got off the phone with them, I called the GP clinic and told them that I'd need a consultation letter. When I got the letter, I called the local place I go to when I need to- and it turns out, you don't even SEE a rheumatologist for this in the real world! I had to go to an ortho. The good thing is, the ortho I had to see is in the same office as my knee doctor. So, from that visit, I was scheduled for the EMG on January 14th. Then this morning, I got a call saying they had a cancellation for this afternoon.

One piece of advice- do NOT Google "Does an EMG for carpal tunnel hurt?" because you will find the scary stories from people who were either exaggerating or complete and total wimps. The test wasn't painful, really, just uncomfortable. And kind of weird. There are needles involved but the needle thing didn't even hurt. The weird cattle prod thingy- that was worse than the needles.

Basically, they put these sensors on your hands in different places and then use that weird cattle prod thingy to send a jolt through various nerves from different places in your arm/wrist. After that, there is a session with a needle in specific places to test muscle activity and such. You get to hear your muscles. I didn't even know my muscles made noise. And let me tell you, mine were noisy bastards!

Because I'm me, I took some photos. But because I'm not an asshole, I won't show you the photos without warning. They'll be in links. Click them if you want to, but I will tell you what they are before you click it.

This is the machine used in the EMG.

This is my hand with some of the senor doodads on it (they move those around at different points of the test).

This is the needle being held up by the doctor so I could take a photo. It is a really thin needle and I barely felt the needle at all.

This is that same needle in my forearm. The doctor took this photo with my phone for me. There is no blood or anything, just the super-thin needle in my arm.

This is the bruise I got in my biceps on my left arm. I don't think I have any other bruises and it doesn't even hurt.

Now see? That wasn't so bad! And if you need one of these, don't worry! You can't even see them putting the needle into your muscle and I could barely feel it.

As for the results of this test- I have severe nerve damage in both hands. I am definitely going to have surgery for it because I really don't have much of a choice at this point. And because my nerve damage is so severe, I will probably always have numbness in some of my fingers. The surgery will help, but it can't fix what's so far gone.

NOW... a little discussion about the fibro thing. Because of the holiday or because I miscounted- I was without my fibro medication for three straight days. I took my last pill on Sunday night. On Monday, when it didn't come in the mail, I decided to give it one more day, because of the holiday. On Tuesday, when it didn't come, I called the VA. It turns out it was mailed out on Monday afternoon. I got it today. However, I couldn't take it till I got home from all the running around I had to do today. So, I did the EMG, I drove home to pick up the Disabled Guy to drive him to Rockford. Oh, yeah- last Thursday (New Year's Eve), he was driving down a road and a woman pulled out in front of him. He was going about 45 MPH and had no stop signs or lights. She was turning left onto the road from a stop sign. How she didn't see the full-size pickup truck with running lights is beyond me. He's fine, but his truck has been officially totaled.

So for the last week, I've been dealing with insurance companies, chauffeuring the Disabled Guy around, juggling my doctor appointments with his anti-coagulation appointment, AND dealing with life without fibro medicine. Let me tell you- I'd forgotten how much this disease sucks without that medicine. And stress suuuuuucks even harder. So, today, I had to drive a half hour to one town to be zapped and prodded and stabbed, then drive the half hour home, get the Disabled Guy, drive forty minutes to where his truck had been towed to get his big-ass toolbox that was mounted in the bed of his truck, then drive him the forty minutes home, and THEN go to the grocery store. Then... I had to cook dinner.

But I digress... or do I? I'm not sure what I'm doing. I'm on my full amount of nighttime medication right now. Let me sum it up a little...

Good news: I was moved up a whole week to get the EMG.

Bad news: I have severe and permanent nerve damage in my hands. (in case you forgot, I kind of use my hands for, well, everything. But most importantly, I use my hands for photography).

Goo- No, wait... bad news: I have to have surgery.

Good- No, wait, still bad news: the Disabled Guy's truck is totaled, we have to wait for the insurance company to settle things with the lien holder before we can get him a new vehicle.

Good news: (no, really!) it should only be a couple weeks before we get the check from the insurance company to get a new truck.

Bad news: I have to put up with the Disabled Guy not driving himself around for another few weeks. He can't drive my vehicle because it isn't big enough for him to tuck his disabled half out of the way so he can reach everything with his un-disabled half.

Good-Bad news: The recovery time from a carpal tunnel surgery can take up to three months. The reason that's good-bad is that I have plenty of time between now and May (the Janesville Ren Faire), but the bad part is that because of my fibro, recovery time may be longer.

 To end on a better note, here are some macro photos I took of some flowers (I bought myself a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store and a couple days later, a friend dropped by and gave me a Yule basket of goodies and some flowers). Also, I took some really cool photos of the Disabled Guy's train set. If you'd like to see those- here's a link. Some were taken with my phone, some with my camera. (the camera shots are awesome!).

And now, on to the flower macros! I took the two flower vases outside while the sun was still out to get a handful of photos. The sunlight was filtered through some thin, white clouds.


Daisies

Daisies

Daisies

Daisies

Flowers in Winter

Flowers in Winter

Flowers in Winter

Flowers in Winter

Flowers in Winter










Monday, December 7, 2015

Cough-cough-cough! *brushes dust off blog*

I'd like to apologize for not updating this like I should. I mean, I kept thinking about it, then I'd think- "Nah, let's wait till after _____" and then after whatever happened, I'd think about updating... and then no, let's wait till... I was a week behind uploading my photos to Flickr, then eventually two weeks... and well, things got busy.

First off- the generic Cymbalta is still a big help. It isn't perfect, but the good outweighs the bad by a huge margin, so I'll take it!

There is no news to report about the left half of my left foot. It still acts stupid and refuses to have any kind of reasonable conversation with me about why it keeps acting like a dumbass.

The bad news is that my human knee- the right one, which, incidentally is the wrong one- hurts now. I carried a cane with me at my last two faires (Stronghold- photos here; and A Gathering of Rogues & Ruffians-
  photos here and all the Bristol photos are here) and used it a little. And since my last blog post, I actually had my son go to faire with me. I was shocked! And he enjoyed himself! He went to Bristol three or four times with me and even came to GRR with me.

On Week 7 of Bristol, both my son and older daughter came to faire. She's been there before, but hadn't been for a few years. So my son got to have more fun because he didn't have to hang out with gimpy ol' me and Kat showed him around and they saw a lot of good shows.


My kids at the Joust
Left to right- Kat, Jason, Christine
Christine is a stage manager at Bristol.


Jason's first time at Bristol was Week 2- and he learned that it is both awesome and a curse when your mom and sister are on the inside of the faire. This is Cameron from Barely Balanced. I've known them for a few years now. On this day, I made sure to introduce Jason to Jimmy ("Large"), and Margret ("Small"), but didn't get a chance to talk to Cameron ("Medium") till right before the show- like less than a minute before he went on stage. And he took right off with it and made Jason come up and help him. All the photos are here... 


I think this says Facebook Profile photo all over it
Cameron said: "Where's your mom?" and pointed at me.
Then he exclaimed: "Profile photo!" 

Okay, I've gotten away from my point. That happens when you ask me about the faire. What do you mean you didn't ask? Of course you did! I clearly remember you saying: "Hey, Patty, we haven't heard from you since August... how was faire?" Don't deny it. If you didn't ask, then why did I go off on that tangent with photos? Yeah, obviously your fault! So, back to the topic...

In all of my updates and doctor visits, I never complained about my hands. I've had problems with carpal tunnel syndrome (I don't even think they call it that anymore) for more than 20 years. I started off wearing a wrist brace on my right hand- but not all the time. Just when I needed it. Then it became an every-night thing. Then my left hand joined the mutiny and for over ten years, I've slept almost every night with two wrist braces. In 2007, the VA hospital gave me new braces because the ones I had were the slightly bent kind and nowadays, (or thenadays, I guess) the braces are flat. I actually have trouble falling asleep if I'm not wearing my wrist braces. 

Several months ago, the numb-tingling in my hands got worse. And worse. A few weeks ago (or a little longer, I don't recall exact dates here), the thumb, index, and middle fingers on my left hand went numb and haven't come back at all. My right hand comes and goes in varying intensity, but the left hand... gone. I called the VA to schedule an appointment, because the doctor always said to do that- if anything changed. The scheduling department transferred me to the "nurse help desk". They took a list of my symptoms and then said they'd call back. They did and made me an appointment for the very next day. I nearly died of shock at that because damn, that's fast! 

Well, it turns out that I'm looking at surgery to fix this. Today, I missed a call from the VA and have to call back in the morning (I didn't see the message when I got home around 3-ish. I saw it at 4:05 PM and they close at 4). The doctor had to refer me to the Rheumatology clinic for steroid shots to help with my hands. They're also referring me to the neurology clinic for a "nerve conduction test". When she asked if I'd had one before, I said I wasn't sure. She replied: "You'd remember, there are needles and they poke you in your arm..." nope, never had one. Sounds fun though! 

So, hopefully all that will fix what's going on inside my hands. Because not having feeling in my fingers and hands sucks, but not as much as what happens when I use them too much. Like, you know, doing my hair, putting on makeup, brushing my teeth, doing dishes, cooking dinner, and something I obviously never do- typing. What happens then is that my thumb, index, and middle fingers on both hands go completely numb, a thousand tiny hairy-legged spiders start burrowing around under the skin, and sharp, stabbing pain shoots around my hand and down to my wrist. (as I type now, the numbness, itching, and pain are quite mild. But I'm also two hours past all my pain drugs, so bleeeeeehhhhhhh...) 

And now, let's switch back to some photos. What photos? Well, Teslacon, of course. I ended up using my cane for that entire weekend. I was resentful about that, but in all honesty, it did help. Plus, my friends made sure I got to sit down a lot. Because they're cool. First of all, all the photos are here. Secondly, they made space for me again, so I was able to take cast photos. 

And, here are some of those photos! For anyone wondering- we did this against a black curtain that was already in the room. I used my flash with a remote trigger, on a light stand with a large umbrella to diffuse the light. I took this photo from across the room. But now- on to a bunch of the cast photos!

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Aly and Drew

Doctor Proctocus

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

The Baton Faction

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Teslacon Cast 2015-

Chips being badass

Verde and Salsa

Teslacon Cast 2015-