Posted by: silverstar98121 | July 26, 2012

Sometimes It IS Zebras

Young doctors are always cautioned not to look for zebras when they hear hoof beats. That is, not to look for the unusual when there are more common explanations. The problem with this is sometimes they forget to look for the zebra in the horse herd. Dr. House aside, it’s sometimes hard to get them to think outside the box. And therein lies a tale.

As some of you who are on Facebook with me know, my boyfriend, The Boyo, was diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer on Valentine’s Day. Personally, I could have lived without the experience. It is a rare type of thyroid cancer, and even rarer in men. It is a zebra, in other words. Because it is rare, not even cancer specialists, unless they specialize in just medullary cancer,  know a lot about it. It’s also what’s known as an indolent cancer, not very aggressive, likes to just hang out for years before it’s diagnosed. Often it’s diagnosed when it has spread to other endocrine organs, which it likes to do. Especially if there is a genetic component, which is more common in men. That doesn’t seem to be the case with The Boyo, and his case is termed “sporadic.”

Remember I said this cancer is indolent? Well, The Boyo has had the lump on his neck that got him diagnosed for about ten years. Ten years is a long time, especially with cancer. It can get up to all sorts of mischief in that amount of time. They did scan him for spread to the other endocrine organs, crucial because if it’s in the adrenals, and you take the thyroid out first, it can cause the blood pressure to spike to malignant levels. Very cautious of them.

However, we now find that there is a zebra in a zebra, puzzle in a puzzle, enigma in an enigma. The Boyo has always had some level of back pain since I’ve known him. He was a construction worker in his other life, this is par for the course. A year or so ago, it got much worse in his upper back, to the point that we could no longer have sex because of his pain. Yeah, I know, TMI, too bad, deal with it.

You must understand that he was part of the 45 million uninsured people in the US for several years. Construction workers often don’t have benefits if they are non-union, and even the union folks only get benefits after they’ve worked a number of hours. The benefits also disappear if they don’t get called to a job for a lengthy period of time. Given the boom and bust cycle of construction work, this is an insane system. So he went many years without seeing a doctor, or only seeing one in the free clinic when he was sick. Finally, last year some time, he got to where he couldn’t do even what minimal work he’d been doing, and he went on disability. And so he went on Medicaid. He could finally see a doctor. Yay!

Since it had been so many years since he’d seen a doctor, he had a lot of problems. He was pre-diabetic, he had sleep apnea that was severely impairing his ability to function. And, of course, he had back pain. Since he presented with so many problems, the back pain got shuffled to the end of the list. Nobody even did so much as x-ray his back. He would have been better off with a chiropractor, they would have x-rayed his back.

Eventually someone noted the lump on his neck, and decided to do a fine needle biopsy on it. I had no idea this was going on until he came home with a report that the lump was cancerous. On Valentine’s Day. I’ve had nicer Valentine’s presents, but I’m sure this will be the most memorable.

Fast forward to now. In the mean time he’s had his thyroid out, and a radical neck dissection. This was in early May, a couple of months after the diagnosis. Because he had a fair number of nodes positive for cancer, he was referred to a radiation oncologist.

I’ve been going to his appointments with him, and reading up on this stuff on the internet. I had a thirty year career as a nurse, so I could interpret for him. He also has some short-term memory loss from a traumatic brain injury, so I am “she who remembers.” Early on, I asked about his back pain, could it be related to the cancer? One of the things that can happen is you can get a tumor in your parathyroids, and because the parathyroids regulate calcium in the body, it can cause bone pain. I was hoping for a parathyroid tumor, because that would be an easy fix for his back pain. You take the tumor out, and within hours, the back pain disappears. But his calcium levels were not high enough to indicate a parathyroid tumor. I asked about bone metastasis, a possibility with this cancer, but not high on the list of places it spreads. I was assured that it would have shown up on the scan they  did pre-surgery. This did not make sense to me, because I knew the scan focused on soft tissue, not bone. And face it, the radiologist is only going to read a scan well enough to answer what they are asked about. They are not going to look hard at bones if they’ve been asked about endocrine organs. Unless something blatant shows up, it’s going to be missed.

And thus we come to the present. The Boyo was slated to start radiation therapy this last Monday. His back still hurt.  He’d been to a presentation by a spinal specialist, and asked to be referred to him. The specialist wanted him to have an MRI before he saw him. And so, this last Sunday, he had an MRI of his spine. He was on the table for 2.5 hours, I don’t know how he stood it. Monday, he had his first radiation treatment, and had difficulty, and was in great pain after the 12 minute treatment. He asked them for something for pain, and was blown off, referred back to his PCP. When he got back to respite care, where he is staying, he told the nurse there about it. She called over to radiation and read them the riot act. Pain management is part of their job.

Tuesday he shows up for his radiation treatment his customary 2-3 hours early (he will not be late for his funeral, I might be but he won’t). So they start asking the “where does it hurt” questions, so they can get some pain management going. When he informs them he had an MRI on Sunday, they call for the report. I’m sure my gentle, intelligent readers know right where this is going. Yes, indeedy, the MRI showed that the cancer had spread to the bones of his spine.

Up until this time, his indolent cancer had been treated indolently. More than two months from diagnosis to surgery. A further two months to radiation. It was like watching paint dry. Suddenly, with the diagnosis of bone mets, things are happening at the speed of light. His current radiation was cancelled, he got some good drugs, (finally), he had another CT scan yesterday, and is scheduled for a bone scan tomorrow. It’s dizzying.

Meanwhile I’m angry. Even with all the delays for tests in Canada, do you think this would have happened in the Socialist State of Canukistan? Hell no!! A doctor had noticed the lump on his neck ten years ago, but he was “lost to follow-up” as shortly after he was without insurance again. This coulda, shoulda, woulda been treated ten years ago. So I’m angry at our so-called “health” care system, or lack thereof. I’m angry that in a year and a half, his PCP never got around to actually addressing his back pain. I’m angry that his back pain was never addressed in the five months since his diagnosis, until now. I’m so angry I can’t see straight. When I went to nursing school, forty years ago, (OMG, I can’t be that old, can I?), it was emphasized that we had to be aware of what was going on with the whole person, and that included what in their family or community might be impacting their illness. Unfortunately, all his doctors have had blinders on. They only saw pieces of him. And so I’m angry. They can be glad I’m not married to him, and have no legal standing to sue.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | November 7, 2010

It’s Been Awhile

Since I got Lacey. Much has happened. She can finally pee and poop on a leash, but is still a little “speshul snoflayke” about when and where. It’s progress. She has taken and passed an obedience class. I signed her up for service dog classes, but they got cancelled. I may have to go with a private trainer. Unfortunately that’s costly, fortunately Washington has assistive technology loans you can get to cover the cost at a low interest rate.

I’m not used to a dog with a tail. I’ve had Cockers for 40 years, all with docked tails. So, it’s interesting to suddenly hear
“whap, whap, whap”, and realize it’s Lacey’s tail thumping on the furniture. My one set of puppies had their tails docked, but I don’t think I would have it done today. They do it when they are small, and it’s like circumcision without an anesthetic. They did it in the beginning because they were bird dogs, and you can imagine that a dog’s tail going “whap, whap” out in the field is going to scare birds away. Most Cockers these days aren’t field dogs anyway. You couldn’t show a dog without a docked tail, because it’s the standard of the breed, but maybe someday they will stop this cruel practice for all but field Cockers.

Lacey still cringes at a lot of stuff, not really people friendly. There are a few people she will let pet her, The Boyo and my therapist come to mind. Otherwise, forgeddaboutit. She has good days when she sails right along on our walks down the crowded sidewalks, and bad days when she cowers behind my chair at the least little thing. Well, except for the time she pulled her leash out of my hand to go chase a squirrel. The dog park is no longer a favorite since one of the big dogs attacked her because he thought she was going after his ball. Little did he know, she was chasing him. One time, I had her off-leash in the middle of the night at Seattle Center, and the little devil ran home. Across two normally busy streets. She was playing, she’d stop to make sure I was following her, then run some more. Twice, when she got spooked by loud noises, she slipped her collar and ran home. In broad daylight, when the streets are busy. But maybe she understands traffic lights. The last time, some people were trying to “help” me by chasing after her. So, of course, she ran faster and farther. All along the trail, people would just point and say, “She went thatta way.” I thought I”d never find her, so I went back to the building to call animal control, and some folks had somehow chased her into the lobby of my building. She was cowering in the corner by the elevators, and there was a cop there. Apparently, because she had her service dog vest on, they thought something had happened to me. So, we may have to do some behavior modification work, and she may need puppy prozac. *sigh* Not giving up on her.

She really is a good dog, except for the cowering. Whoever had her trained her well. She doesn’t beg. She doesn’t get up on the furniture, except with an engraved invitation with treats in it. She goes right under the table and just sits lies there if a stop off for a sandwich or coffee. Wouldn’t poop or pee in the house if you didn’t take her out for days. And will hold it until she gets to one of her designated spots, as she proved when I spent the weekend in Las Vegas over Labor Day. The Boyo didn’t know where her spots were, so she just didn’t go until I came home. Well, OK she did pee during that time, but you should have seen the pile of poop the first time I took her out when I got home.

Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to print, and probably some that isn’t.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | August 15, 2010

Dog Park Antics

So Lacey, the speshul snowflake dog, apparently has never learned to pee while on a leash. This is a problem, I live in the city. I took her out a bunch of times the first day, and she did nothing. I took her to grass, I took her to gravel, I took her everywhere. Fortunately there is an off-leash dog park about four blocks away, and she did her business there. And only there, even after the longest runs.

Lacey at the dog park

She also likes the dog park because she gets to play there. She won’t play in the house, and has let me know she is not a retriever. This may be a problem later. We will see. Corgis are herding dogs, and she loves nothing more than to chase big dogs around the dog park. It’s funny to watch her go flat out after a big lab or pitbull.

So she was running around the other afternoon with a bunch of dogs, playing like crazy. The next thing I know, one of the dogs jumps up on the back of my wheelchair, where I had inadvertently left my knitting bag. Ruh-roh.

Yep, she had leaped up there and grabbed my ball of yarn, which she promptly strung all over the dog park. Her owner had to go after her, and pick up all the yarn. Luckily, it was not a project I has worked on for a long time, and I didn’t even really like the color of the yarn. She didn’t get my needles, either.  Her owner gave me replacement cost for the yarn, which fortunately for her, was not Wollmiese or Malabrigo Rasta, but ordinary dishcloth cotton. Oh, and the dog’s name is Luna, and she’s a Luna-tic.

Wet dogs, wading pool in the background.

It’s scorching hot today, close to 90° F, and the dog park had all the wading pools out and filled with water. The dogs run around, and then plunk down in the pools when they get hot. There were a lot of wet dogs there today, but not my snowflake. She thinks the wading pools are big water dishes. Um, yuck? Whatever.

Lacey has really nice manners, doesn’t get into things, doesn’t beg, just really a nice dog. She has also made it plain she is MY dog. She tolerates The Boyo, but knows which side her bread is buttered on. So far I’ve been able to keep him from starting her on begging and people food. I hope that continues. As you can see, I put Friday’s vest on her, and she behaves well enough to take anywhere. But she has no command of commands. Except sit. She knows that one. And she’s getting pretty good at heeling to the wheelchair. But then, we do a couple of miles every day. We have conquered the dreaded elevator, and tolerate the bus lift. Now if I could just get her to pick up my keys. She is very shy, and shies away from some people/things, and I wonder if she was teased/tormented in the yard. She’s getting better, though. She will be harder to train in some ways than Friday was, but she’s still the right dog for me.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | August 9, 2010

Welcome, Lacey

So I have a new dog. Her name is Lacey, and she is a Corgi/spaniel mix. Which means she looks like she was put together by a committee. For realz. I got her on Friday, and she is a sweetie. She’s a little skittish, but her favorite thing is to run beside my wheelchair. You look like you’re going to get the leash, and she’s right there. More later.

Lacey

Posted by: silverstar98121 | June 24, 2010

It’s Not Sally

Bad news from the Seattle Animal Shelter. Sally is just too barky and anxiety ridden to be a good apartment/service dog. So the search goes on. Now I’m looking at Cocker Spaniels again. Unlike last time I was looking, there are a whole slew of Cockers looking for new homes, probably due to the economy.

So sorry, Sally

Posted by: silverstar98121 | June 5, 2010

RIP Friday

Earlier this week, it was apparent it was time to let Friday go. She was having more trouble breathing, was losing her house manners, barely eating, and her stools had turned dark, which may have indicated some GI bleeding from her NSAID med. I told The Boyo before he left for work on Tuesday that I thought I would do it this week when I got paid. I called and made an appointment with the vet, specifying it was for euthanasia, and set it for when The Boyo would be off work so he could go with me.

We were supposed to meet at a certain place and ride the bus together. Didn’t happen. The buses were screwed up, and then when I tried to call him, my phone was screwed up, and I couldn’t hear. Eventually, we sent smoke signals, and determined we would meet at the clinic.

When we were shown into the room, the lights were low, and there was a fleecy blanket over the exam table. They took Friday off to put an IV catheter in her, and while she was gone, The Boyo showed up. They brought her back, and we spent a few minutes petting and loving on her, and giving her lots of treats. The vet came in then, and we talked about all the problems she had been having.

The vet went to go get the shots ready, and we gave Friday some more loving. When the vet came back, I lifted Friday to the table, and then held her while the drugs were administered. As soon as the vet pronounced her gone, The Boyo and I were both in tears. This is her last picture, taken in the vets office. I’m glad we let her go while she still had the capacity to be a happy dog, at least some of the time. But I miss her already. The last time I saw her she was wrapped in the fleecy blanket, and at peace.

We went to the animal shelter, which is across the street, to let them know to cancel her tag. And while we were there, we went to look at the dogs for adoption. I know, silly us. There was one that was so ugly she was cute, and we liked her a lot. Unfortunately, they think she has behavior problems, and they are going to send her to foster care. We went out and visited with her as the volunteer walked her. Sorry, she is just a big, overgrown puppy who hasn’t had any training. However, she is food motivated, and I taught her to do “High Five” in the few minutes we were there with her. Hmm, maybe I should volunteer to walk the dogs.

Sadly, the Seattle Animal Shelter mostly gets pit bulls and Rottweilers, both of which are prohibited by my lease, even as service dogs. The little dog we liked, called Sally, was the only one who wasn’t a pittie or a rottie in the whole place.  *sigh* And god only know what she had in her. She looked like something that had been glued together by a committee.

After the animal shelter, we went to supper, and then went to see Shrek, the Final Chapter. I needed fluff, I’m telling you. I picked that movie out, and we saw it at a theater we’ve never been to for shits and giggles. And I was fine, until the movie was over, and we were almost alone in the theater. Then I started thinking about putting away or giving away Friday’s things, and I lost it. I lost it again just now, walking into the kitchen and seeing her food dish.

The plan now is to take 30 days more or less to get the fleas out of the house, and get it cleaned up, then bring whoever is supposed to be here home. I’d love to have Sally, and she would definitely be a challenge for me, but unless I call them and visit them all the time, and make it clear I think I can handle this dog, it ain’t happening. She’s a little bigger than what our lease specifies, so I will have to get my doctor involved, and have her order me a bigger dog. And I can’t just set my sights on this dog, I will have to look at other dogs, too. Because if I don’t have another dog soon, I probably will not leave the apartment much. And that would be bad for my mental health. So if you’ve got any magic to help me find the right dog, I’d appreciate you sending it this way.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | May 6, 2010

With a Little Help from my Friends

So, yes, GnuKid, things are better here. Friday hasn’t had a “spell” for about a week. I was able to get some flea stuff with a generous donation, and we are both about over our flea-bite-us. Other than being totally unmotivated to do anything but sit and knit, things are good. So far. I have to get up and do something, though, as my back is hurting from sitting too much. And the dish fairy and cleaning fairies haven’t been here for a while.

The weather has been crap, but it could be worse. Floods, like in Nashville,  are not fun, and I hear some folks are in for snow. I just want to put my winter coat away.

Preemie blanket in progressSo, what am I knitting? Right now I’m knitting a preemie blanket. Unfortunately, I’m using skinny yarn and tiny needles, and I think I could do a regular baby blanket faster. And I don’t think the one skein I have of this color is going to be enough. Oh, no, the torture of a trip to the LYS (local yarn store.) Torture because I can’t afford to buy all the lovely yarn. I finished a couple of other preemie hats, too. At some point I will have to make The Boyo a new hat since he lost the one I made him. But he was remorseful and brought me chocolate, so I forgave him. His birthday is in October, so I have time. Hopefully, we can quit wearing our woollies sometime soon.

As the weather warms, (yeah, right, it was warmer in January) an old woman’s thoughts turn to geocaching. But so far, that’s all I’ve done about it. Must get organized, get my list for this year ready. Queen Anne hill, get ready, I’m coming for you. At least this year I will know where to get off the bus to get to that one park, and won’t be deceived by the bus directions.

Other than that, nothing’s happening. Really. Except I think I will go grocery shopping now. After I get something to eat so I won’t buy the whole store.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | April 22, 2010

Some Cheese with that Whine?

So, things kinda suck at Chez Silverstar. Friday has been having more of those “spells”. I’m convinced there is something definitely wrong here. Right now she is trying to crawl into my lap while I’m on the computer. It doesn’t work well. I will have to retire soon to the recliner so she can be a lap dog.

For the most part she seems her happy dog self. We went for a walk to Seattle Center today, and she’s been doing the panting and pacing routine since we got back. But she seemed so happy to be out, was running ahead of my chair and not lagging, but now we’re paying for it. The Boyo is encouraging me to let her go, but it will have to wait a bit. It even costs money to say goodbye to your best friend.

And then there is the fleas. The warm weather in January has apparently brought them out early and in full force. Also thinking if Friday stays for a while, I need to get her some flea killer. But that stuff costs an arm and a leg, too. *sigh*

Adding to my problems is the fact that The Boyo hasn’t gotten paid in a while. So he hasn’t been able to pay his half of our family plan cell phone bill. It doesn’t usually matter, but I had three big bills this month, and needed help with one of them. Not his fault, the building owner is being a jackass. Or maybe he is just in the dumper with the rest of us in this economy. He wants X, Y, Z done, but doesn’t want to part with cash. He wants all the offices in the building rented out. Well, look around, there are more empty office and retail spaces than you can shake a stick at. The Boyo had to go back on food stamps to feed himself. He’s had a good deal for the last several years, now I fear he will be sleeping in his van again. But at least it is going to be summer eventually.

The weather goes up and down. We have a couple of days in the 60s, and I start thinking about geocaching, or the zoo, or something, then the next day it’s cool and pouring rain. OK, summer doesn’t really start in Seattle until after the 4th of July, but I just wish for some consistent weather. Also hindering me is that Friday can’t go with me.  I miss that companionship.

I’m still knitting away, mostly making preemie caps, because they are easy and I can finish them in one evening. And Daisy Fae, you are right, I’m writing some of my own patterns. Don’t know about publishing them, however, we’ll see. Sounds like a lot of work to get it so even the idiots can do it.

Mmm-mmm, good.

On the plus side, I got my St. Patrick’s Day present from Daisy Fae and Gnu Kid after Easter but before Tax Day. Dark chocolate and Celtic music for the win. Thanks, guys. I’m going to try to get your Easter present to you shortly after Beltane. Pardon the lousy picture, both of my good cameras need the batteries charged, so this is a cell phone picture.

I’m gonna go drown my sorrows in a murder mystery now. See you later.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | April 3, 2010

A Bad Week

It’s been a bad week for Friday and I. It started Monday. Friday started pacing and panting about 4 PM Monday evening, and continued until early AM Tuesday. My Google-fu told me this was a case for the vet, so as so0n as the vet’s office opened Tuesday, I called for an emergency appointment. We went in about 9AM. She was still having some respiratory distress, then.

The vet took X-rays and thought she had a tumor in her trachea that was causing her distress. So we went home to wait for the radiologist report. She was still very clingy and obviously not feeling good. We didn’t get the report until Thursday, by which time she seemed better.  The radiologist didn’t think it was a tumor, that’s the good news. The bad news is we don’t know what was causing the problem. Meanwhile, she is home, on some Benadryl since the vet thinks some of her breathing problem could be allergies. And some antibiotics for the halibut, I guess. Although her ears are yucky and she could probably use them.

Meanwhile, I got nothing done all week. Sort of hard to do anything with a 30 lb. dog on your lap. Can’t even knit. I hope to get back to knitting as she seems much better today, willing to go with me. Except I had to carry her to the vet’s office when I went to try to pay the bill. Unfortunately, the website lied to me about what time they closed. So I will go Monday.

Friday turned 13 on March 1st, so the time is coming for the inevitable of her crossing the rainbow bridge. Meanwhile, I have bought another months worth of doggie supplies, and we’ll hope for the best.

Posted by: silverstar98121 | March 26, 2010

T-Shirt Friday

I should have done this one last month, but anyway, here it is in honor of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Vancouver!

Be sure to drop by Nurse Myra’s to see who else is playing.

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