Here Comes the Port

I had my port consultation with the surgeon today. He seemed very knowledgeable and made me feel at ease when he told me he had placed ports in other patients with Autonomic Dysfunction and Gastroparesis.

While I am not looking forward to having even a “simple” outpatient surgery, I am ready to get this over with ASAP. I’m scheduled for next Tuesday morning. The scheduler asked when I’d like my surgery, and I told her as soon as she could work me in. I have dreaded this next step in the “Chronic Illness Drama.”

I’ve spoken to numerous nurses. I’ve talked to a LOT of patients online who have ports. They’ve all ensured me that I’m making the right decision. “Your life will be much easier with a port.” “No more blown out veins.” “Just one stick from now on!”

It DOES sound good! I cringe when I think of something foreign inside my body again. I absolutely HATED that heart monitor I had inside of me all those years ago. It bugged me the entire 18 months. Granted, it was larger and shaped like a cigarette lighter. The port is smaller. Hopefully, the port experience will be NOTHING like the inserted heart monitor because this time, the foreign body is here to stay.

I don’t exactly have any options though. I’m 42, and my last “good” vein has developed scar tissue. I have a prescription for weekly IV saline fluids that my body needs. I landed in the ER twice back in June, and it took the nurses 45 minutes to start an IV. Multiple doctors have told me, “Get a port.”

It is time to get a port.

I don’t want to do it, but I’m going to even though I’m nervous about the small chance of infection.

Before I brought up this small risk with the surgeon today, he beat me to it. He said he’s seen patients who have Autonomic Dysfunction AND Gastroparesis contract infections from their ports because they want to keep needles IN their ports. He warned me that I could NOT do this at all. Then he graphically explained what happened when ports become infected. I thanked him for the information.

I told him I would follow his directions to the letter because my body does NOT fight infections like it should. Bronchitis literally knocks me down for a month. The flu almost kills me. I don’t need to have an infected port! It’s one of the reasons I’ve put this surgery off. Infections scare me. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The surgeon had an example of the actual port he plans to insert in my body, so I was able to look at it. Unfortunately, he’s not going to go through the same scar I have on my chest from the heart monitor because it’s on the left side. He said it’s better for ports to be on the right side. So I’ll have another scar. Oh well. It’s not like I go around flashing my chest all the time. I do wear a bathing suit a few times a year swimming though, and I’m sometimes still self conscious about that old scar.

He said the port will be raised and noticeable too. I’m nervous about that as well. I’ve only recently lost my self consciousness about using my power wheelchair and mobility aids. I may be disabled, but I’m still a woman. I worry about my husband finding me attractive. Of course, he assures me this port will be a non-issue. I worry about the port showing through clothes. I worry about my large chest and my bras being uncomfortable with it because that WAS an issue with the evil heart monitor.  I’m just worrying. You see a theme? It will probably take some time for me to adjust to having the port.

I am going to try to focus on the positives: I can begin IV therapy again, no more blown out veins, no more bruised arms from blown out veins, one needle stick for blood draws, one needle stick for IVs.

I will try to take photos on surgery day and during recovery to share.

Armadillos, Possums, Coyotes, and New Pups 

I live where street lights don’t exist.  I know all my neighbors and while we know each other, we aren’t that close. We are private people. Most of the people on my hill have families who date back a few generations in this community like mine. Stay with me I promise I’m going somewhere with this story. I’m trying to explain how rural and isolated I am. We rarely see cops unless there is a wreck or a high speed chase happens to come into our area. I know that if someone breaks into my home, the response time is approximately 45 minutes when I dial 911.

Back in the spring, I had a case of insomnia so Phoebe the Dachshund and I were snuggling in the recliner. Suddenly, I heard a chilling yipping sound followed by several more in the front yard. Phoebe hopped off my lap barking furiously at the same time Ginger, our outside dog started barking. I opened the front door.

To my horror, four coyotes had Ginger surrounded on our front porch!  I screamed for my husband to grab the shotgun while slamming the door. I grabbed my rollator and struggled to get into the bedroom to wake him up. He met me halfway, and I explained what was happening. Of course, when I screamed, the coyotes headed for the woods. They weren’t sticking around with humans in the yard. We let Ginger in the house. My husband went outside to make sure they’d left the yard, but I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. We were used to seeing coyotes in the field across the road. This was the first time we’d ever spotted them in our yard in over two decades.

We also have an armadillo harassing Ginger. Ginger is a senior dog. She’s half corgie and half dachshund. She’s rather harmless. The armadillo knows this. I’ve actually named this armadillo because it has become a fixture in our yard!  If you look on my Instagram, there is a photo. Dilla antagonizes poor Ginger. Dilla also digs holes ALL in the yard. I’m having trouble using my rollater and power chair now thanks to Dilla. While it HAS cut down on the tick population like the possum that has also harassed poor Ginger all summer long, Dilla has become a nuisance.

My husband and I don’t believe in killing animals unless you are going to do it humanely and eat them OR if they have to be euthanized because there is no hope OR if they are trying to kill you or your pets.  Therefore, Dilla, the possum and the cat food stealing raccoons are safe from us.

So…To combat our coyote issue in a nonlethal manner, we got two blue heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) puppies on Sunday. We had one of these dogs many years ago. He was a great guard dog. They are a smart breed and easy to train. They are known for being territorial and keeping predators away. Also, they are less aggressive than some other dog breeds. Since I am often alone while my husband works long hours, I am happy we got these pups. We have them in the house to bond with us for now because they’re so young.  Also, we are installing wireless fencing outside so they will have boundaries and stay safe on our property.

If you enjoy wildlife check out the deer family that lives at the edge of our backyard that I posted on Instagram. While my husband and I do not hunt, I am not against hunting at all. I live in The Natural State. The hunters in our state are also some of the biggest conservationists I’ve ever met. We are a conservation state. My husband and I simply prefer to watch, photograph, and enjoy their beauty.

Meet Willow and Pepper:

Take Me Away

I’ve always used books to hide from harsh realities surrounding me. I’ve laid in bed this summer and lost count of the books I’ve devoured. If there is something happening in my life that my brain cannot handle, the book count goes up. I escape.

Books are my drug.

While I’m reading a book, I’m not a chronically ill woman lying in bed aching from scalp to toes. I’m not this lady who is a housewife unable to clean or cook whose mind won’t shut up telling her she’s a failure because she can’t do those things.

When I’m reading a book, I’m somewhere far away from the doctor appointment schedule hanging on the wall.

When I’m reading a book, I’m able to escape the prison of loneliness that comes with chronic illness and being a shut-in living in a rural community unable to drive.

When I’m reading a book, I can join the world that continues to spin and move on while my life feels as if it stands still.

While I’m reading a book, I get to experience past hobbies long left behind when illness took control.

When I’m reading a book, I’m able to swim in the sea, smell the salty air, hike a mountain, run once again, ride a roller coaster and feel the adrenaline rush as the cars fly on the rails.

When I read a book, I get to live.

Hand Over That Voodoo Doll!

I woke up this morning with my 6 day old migraine wanting to come out and play. So, I took 2 Midrin before it could get a good hold on me and settled down in the recliner with my wiener dog to catch up on a few TV shows.

I heard a loud noise in the hallway that sounded like it came from the AC unit, but I didn’t think too much of it. My mistake!

A few hours later, I realize the house was too warm. I put my foot over a vent. Nothing was coming out and I could hear the unit running. Not good. Our weather forecast predicted a heat index of over 100 degrees today, and I have severe heat intolerance.

I opened the AC unit to see if it’s frozen up because that happens on really humid days sometimes. Yes, it was frozen. I turned off the thermostat BUT the unit didn’t go off. Oh crap. So, I threw the breaker and called the repairman.

I spent ALL day without air conditioning. It got repaired at 5:30. I’m thankful it’s fixed, but I was contemplating getting in a tub of cold water to stay alive. If not for the fainting risk while being alone, that’s what I would’ve done. (Because of course this drama had to happen while my husband was working!)

Also, in the middle of the day while I was trying to survive the heat and humidity, I was stung by a blue wasp on the upper left arm. I’ve never been stung by a blue wasp before! The red ones? Yes. Blue? Nope. Apparently, they eat Japanese beetles and only the females sting. I got a huge whelp, and my arm went numb for awhile, so I took two Benedryls. Thanks a lot, you jerk. I was just minding my business in my own bedroom.

The final episode of “What Else Could Possibly Go Wrong Today” happened when I was nibbling on a few Fritos Honey BBQ Twists. My blood pressure was low. I needed some salt. I was downing Liquid IV and snacking on a few chips.

A Frito went down my windpipe!

I’ve taken CPR. I know it’s a good sign when the person can cough. I couldn’t cough. I couldn’t breathe. The Frito was choking me.

I was choking on a Frito. I bent over onto my hands and knees. My wiener dog was in my face licking my cheek.

Instead of begging God for help, all I could think in those few seconds while struggling to breathe was, “Are you REALLY gonna take me out this way Lord?!”

I mean come on! I’ve got how many diseases?! And I’m gonna die by Frito?!

I managed to dislodge the chip and other than having a raw spot back in my throat, I’m fine.

After the Frito incident, I texted my daughter and told her I was just waiting for a rattlesnake to slither up onto the bed and bite me next.

May tomorrow be better! The bar is pretty dang low.

Memory Lane

I had a neurologist appointment yesterday in Conway, Arkansas, “the city of Roundabouts.” The summer I turned 14, my mom moved us to Conway to be near her mother. My stepfather at the time also wanted to find work in that city. When I started school in the fall, it was a culture shock. I went from a tiny rural school with only 16 in my entire grade to a whole campus for two grade levels. My mom only kept us in that district for 9 weeks before they moved us to Greenbrier. During that time, I did not make one single friend. I wasn’t bullied. No one spoke to me though, and I was quiet. There were cliques. I did NOT fit in. I was poor, from the Ozark foothills, had a country accent, was overwhelmed surrounded by so many students, and this was 1990 in the era before welcoming committees and “make the new kid feel part of the crowd” movements.

After my doctor appointment yesterday, I asked my husband if he’d drive me the fifteen miles outside of Conway into Greenbrier because I’ve not been back since I was 14. He agreed as long as I was feeling up to it.

Greenbrier was my saving grace. While that school system was still a LOT larger than the small schools I’d come from, the kids there were welcoming. I made friends the first day. I wasn’t swallowed up in the crowd. Yes, the cliques existed like they do at all schools, but someone spoke to me. That’s all I actually needed at the larger school…just someone to speak to the silent girl keeping her head down going to classes while shaking and quaking on the inside.

By February of 1991, I was back in the Ozark foothills. The tiny rural school with 16 in my class had been annexed into another rural school district 19 miles from my home. I was back with my friends. Thankfully, I stayed in that district until I graduated high school. I attended 5 schools total during my childhood and teen years.

Even though I’m worn out from the extra time in the vehicle yesterday, I enjoyed getting to see Greenbrier. We went into a few flea markets and antique shops. My husband works a lot of hours, and I’m often alone. We were able to spend some much needed time together. I got a migraine about five miles from our house on the way home, but at least it didn’t hit DURING the trip.

Also, I am being scheduled to get a port placed because my veins are no good. I backed out of the surgery earlier in the summer until I could see my neurologist. I’m honestly not looking forward to this next step in my life but know I have no choice. It’s time to go forward with the process.

Maybe, it’s why I wanted to take that trip to Greenbrier…down memory lane. It was a time right before my body started fainting.

I lived there the winter before I first fainted.

We were the poorest I’ve ever been in my life BUT I’d never fainted.

Mom had $5 to spend on each of us that Christmas.

BUT…I’d never fainted.

I did enjoy going back there yesterday.

Pulling My Hair Out in the Grocery Store

“Your potassium is extremely low. Eat bananas.” states my PCP

“Bananas give me migraines.” I reply.

“Okay. Google potassium rich foods.” replies my PCP.

*I go home and Google potassium rich foods.* Most foods rich in potassium , except POTATOES, are bad for Gastroparesis.

So, I go to Walmart with my husband Sunday. Yes, I grocery shop at Walmart. I live in rural Arkansas. I live thirty-five minutes driving distance in the middle of three average sized towns. We shop in the smallest of those three because of traffic and the ability to get me out of the house and back home quickly. That town has two grocery stores: Walmart and Cash Saver.  Walmart is also my pharmacy, and I know the people well who work there.  Once again, it’s Arkansas. But I digress…

Back to me in the grocery store trying to find potassium rich foods that I can digest with this jacked up stomach!

My doctor said strawberries are rich in potassium, but they didn’t show up on a list.  I love strawberries, and they don’t bother me if I eat a cup at a time. They went into the buggy.  Also, while I don’t exactly LIKE raisins, I can tolerate them.  I bought some raisins.  I guess I will be munching on some raisins and pretending they are tasty M&M’s. A girl can dream, right?

I live on soft Lean Cuisine meals mainly because I can’t stand long enough to cook anymore, and my husband works 10-12 hour days.  If I DO feel like eating a meal, I eat a Lean Cuisine meal.  I can use my rollator to get to the microwave and hit the buttons.  They’re not as bad as some of the other microwave meals.  With Gastroparesis, I can’t eat wonderful leafy green vegetables like I love anymore.  So processed foods aren’t off the list for me.  I’m on a Step 2 Gastroparesis diet by the way.  I move to a Step 1 when I am flaring.

Other than potatoes, raisins, and strawberries, I didn’t really find any super potassium foods I could eat with Gastroparesis.  My PCP mentioned that she would prescribe Liquid Potassium if my levels came back extremely low.  I’m still waiting to find out the verdict.pulling_hair_out copy

 

I Was a Teacher

Dust gathers on college degrees hard earned

for a career I honestly enjoyed.

Mementos and presents from students now grown

are packed away in boxes labeled “keepsakes.”

Each Christmas, my tree is weighed down with

ornaments students gave me over the years.

It’s all that is left to show I was a teacher.

School starts back tomorrow, and I miss the excitement of meeting new students. However, this is the first year I have been able to stay on any type of social media during the month of August since my body crashed in November 2013.  Usually, I get too depressed seeing the classrooms getting ready for a new year, the open houses, and I just can’t handle it.  As you can imagine, a lot of my Facebook friends are teachers.  I taught at two different school districts during my career.

I am proud to say that while I still wish I could get up and go in tomorrow to my classroom and teach a fresh batch of 6th graders, I am able to view pictures online of former coworkers getting ready for their school year without the usual overwhelming sadness and depression.  That is major progress for me.  I have finally accepted my life will never be the same.

This is a picture of my 6th grade classroom when I was a teacher. I worked with ADA accommodations.

Teacher Days (35)