Tag Archives: Cancer

The big C and its effect on the human body

Well, rancherinos, it’s been another glorious week of remembering the always-there aftereffects of a couple of bouts of cancer and the attending treatment (namely, chemo and radiation) that churn up in the wake of that horrible ship that passes through your life.

This past week – technically, last weekend, I suppose – I started feeling a bit “off” and then got a horrid, watery cough, and then started coughing up some crap out of my face and we decided it was xray time. My back to school gift was apparently a raging case of pneumonia. Everybody else got pencil boxes (does anyone remember those?) and I got this. Rip off.

Still, I saw my doctor, I got an xray, and I got my antibiotics without spending a dime: thanks to February’s adventure, I blasted through my out of pocket limit before this year really got rolling, and that’s a good thing, since this is the third serious bout of pneumo, two of which involved hospital stays.

What have I been up to? Beyond hauling myself out to feed the bees and working, not much. I have definitely been doing nothing to clean up the gardens, which are desperate to be cleaned, because one, it’s way too hot here right now, two, my energy reserves just are not back to where they need to be, and three, did I mention it’s fucking hot? It is. I’ve also not been writing much even though the attitude is there to do it – fighting off things that make you cough almost uncontrollably every ten minutes, which then take you another five to recover from are not really conducive to that. It’s made worse by coughing fits that threaten to swell the throat, and with someone with an already limited opening, can cause a tinge of panic that there’s going to have to be a 911 call in there somewhere. Fortunately, I’ve been concentrating on staying calm after the fit passes and letting things get back to as normal as they can be.

On the plus side, I’ve been reading more books this year, and just finished one that made so little sense, plot-wise, and took away from a series character everything that made him what he is right up to that book, that I almost didn’t finish it. But I did because I am apparently a glutton for punishment. I’m now back to the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford (currently reading #11), which I left off late last year because it was time for a break from that series. I’m having a hard time finding another series to have on my list that I would like to read – the ultra-jingoistic right wing nutjob novels are not my thing, and some series I found intriguing only have a couple of books in them, which I could read in a day – I read incredibly quickly, which is why libraries were always my thing when I was young and why Kindle Unlimited is fantastic for me now: I can read quite a number of books without bankrupting myself.

The downside to Kindle Unlimited is while there are tons of bad self-published books out there in general, KU is absolutely a giant mountain of them. This is not a ding against self-publishing. It’s where I’ll be starting at first because I don’t want to wait out the usual timeframe it takes to find an agent, and then for that agent to find a publisher, and then for that publisher to get the goods out the door. Do I want some traditionally-published work at some point? Sure, why not. They have budgets and editors and cover designers and PR people that I do not. But if I can show an agent/a publisher that I have a track record and a platform (I hate that fucking term, let me tell you), I think that would help in getting to the traditional route.

College football started today, in the same way restaurants have soft openings: a handful of games, spread throughout the day, not a whole lot of gotta-see games, although OR State versus CO State turned from a neck and neck game into an obliteration by COST thanks to turnovers by ORST.  Later tonight: Stanford (ranked team) versus Rice, from Australia.

And lastly, the weight thing: I’ve been trying to put on some weight in order to improve my overall quality of life and increase my “reserve” (as the medical people say) and to get the feeding tube removed, and have been pounding that as much as I can. I’m now hovering around 100 pounds, something I consider not too bad, considering that I left the hospital back in February at 92 pounds.

Today? Raining, off and on, making it a lousy day to get things done outside even if I were able to do it. Nope, hanging out, doing work stuff, reading in the breaks, and right now getting a shake and coffee down the hole in my face to keep those intake calories going.

So there we have it, folks. Battles being fought between the evil forces of infection who want to kill me and the white hat of modern pharmacology. Seems to me the good guys are once again winning this round.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Pictures, we got pictures

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to post them. But today – a day that was supposed to be all rain, all day, turned into another bum forecast for this area. The large mass of heavy storms burned themselves out before they got to us. We did get about 0.15 inches of rain today, which is just enough to be annoying: can’t mow, can’t work on pulling weeds (because getting all the soil off the roots is a pain), can’t work with the bees, and so on.

It was, though, an excellent day for having my niece and nephew over while my sister took care of a few things, and during a break in the rain we did have, we picked some muscadine grapes from the vine in the herb garden. I also found some caterpillars on the foliage. At first, in my addled, needs-much-more-sleep brain, I thought, hey, monarchs! Then I reminded myself they only use milkweed, which this was not, and their caterpillars have no hairs, as these did. We finally identified them with some help from Stacy (thanks!) as grapeleaf skelentonizer caterpillars – an entirely apt name, because that’s exactly what they do to the leaves on the grapevines. The adult moth they  morph into is ugly, too. I counted 15, mostly young ones. Tomorrow, I’ll go on caterpillar patrol and kill them all.

The first round of peppers I harvested the other day is in and drying. By tomorrow morning, they will be fully dried, and I’ll start round two. Given the shape the plants and fruits are in, there will only be two rounds this time. Tomorrow, my sister is coming over, and we will pull the pepper plants that have been chewed away/damaged to nothing, along with the squash and zuke plants the bugs got to. We did manage to get some yellow squash off early from those, and they were delicious. Inattention, however, allows the bugs to take over and destroy things. If only some bright person would come up with a commercially viable solution for leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs, they’d make a fortune.

Very early this morning, I went to the doc for my annual checkup, even though I had just seen him two weeks ago. All my bloodwork is normal, except for a couple of items that are slightly out of normal range, but not so far out that they’re problematic. Xrays are good, scans are good, and on paper, if someone just looked at these results, they’d pronounce me in fine health indeed. And that, of course, is what I tell people: outside this cancer business (fuck you, cancer!), I’m healthy as a horse – healthier, actually, than most people. I did talk to him about my right shoulder, which I’ve either torn the rotator cuff or the labrum in, most likely. I’m fairly sure I did this months ago, and it’s progressively gotten worse, but I have ha so many things going on this year, it’s taken a seat behind all that. Now, though, it’s time, and it will probably take an mri to figure out what the problem is. Interesting note: my referral to an ortho doc happens to be to the brother of the doc who handled my radiation oncology work back in 2005 for the first cancer round. He also surgically repaired my primary doc’s rotator cuff injury, so he’s definitely the guy I want.

Tomorrow, we are planning to do some honey extraction – about 10 frames, I believe, that I pulled off the bees in the west yard. I really need to do a full round of inspections on the girls, and tomorrow I also need to feed them, as I’m behind a day on that.

And now, it’s back to tame the helldesk, get that cleared, and eventually tonight, get some sleep that is better than last night’s, which was atrocious even for my baseline of sleep habits.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

Another week, another disaster

Disaster may be too strong a word, really. After all, everyone is alive, and healthy (well, not me, entirely, but I am alive, so fuck you, cancer aftereffects). It’s been a mighty weird week and to top it off, we got three inches of rain yesterday, flooding out some of the areas on the property. That mainly means the lower lying areas, but also includes the areas I’ve not yet worked on rehabbing that are mostly clay and hardpan a few feet down.  Those are the areas you can walk through when there is water and have your footprints stay as the water evaporates – sort of your own personal archaeological site to play in, if you’re of a mind to do so.

After that rain moved past us, it turned into a wonderfully cooler, breezy day, without the horrid humidity that plagues us during this time of year. Today is a lovely day and would have been a nice day to be working outside if I’d not had yet another meeting with an ENT to look at this lump in my neck. I think we’re all on the same page that it is most likely within the submandibular salivary gland, and at this point, the only real option would be some exploratory surgery to open up my neck, and either remove whatever the lump is, or remove that gland completely. The latter is  a difficult choice: radiation to the head and neck do a hard tango on the salivary glands, and I’m already missing the sublingual gland on the left side from the original surgery, so this is one of the few remaining, even if it isn’t working properly right now. In addition, the even more worrisome part is not actually the surgery, but the wound healing: the skin on my neck is not a good candidate for rebuilding the area post-removal, because of said radiation – even though the original cancer was all on the left side, the radiation treatment for it involved blasts to both left and right on my neck. So that rebuild procedure would involve taking skin from another area of my body, and since I do not exactly have, shall we say, as much padding as other people, I’d likely have to have balloons put in whatever area we decided would make the best place to grow what would be skin grafts for my neck. It’s a bundle of very serious choices. The easiest choice? Leave it alone, and I keep draining the thing of pus via whatever method it takes: either expressing it via that sublingual gland when the swelling is higher on my neck, or draining it wherever it pools up lower on my neck by opening it (or having it open spontaneously). This time, I opened it my own by puncturing my neck where it seemed the weakest point was – that is, where the pressure of the drainage is building up the most is where I cut it open when it gets too large and painful. Note: I do not recommend DYI doctoring, so don’t take this as medical advice. I’ve been through this enough to know what I’m doing and not break anything else in my neck, and when it’s too bad or I can get a lock on where the best place to open it is, I go to the doctor.

On another note, I’m pretty sure I tore the rotator cuff in my right shoulder some months ago. Probably from chucking the ball for the puppy – I have to keep in mind I’m no longer a 16-18 year old catcher trying to nail a base stealer. It’s quite painful, but with the gardens to have to deal with, I’m hoping some rest and ice will help it heal versus having to go through surgery on that front. For now I have two half working arms. That’s better than none, so we make do with what we have to get through, I suppose.

On yet another note, I participated in, but did not finish, Camp Nano this month. It has been a miserable failure of a month on the writing front. However, tomorrow brings the promise of a new day and a new month, and tomorrow and for all the days following, I write. This determination has come to me after reading two mysteries by the same author where the bad guy really appears out of nowhere in the last or next to last chapter, which is always irksome to me. Unless you’re writing an unreliable narrator like Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, this is not fair to the reader. And if you ARE writing an unreliable narrator, it had better be damn well done – I’ve read enough attempts people have made to not yet find anything remotely touching Christie’s adroitness. Obviously, I don’t expect anyone to actually match her in this, but I think it is entirely possible to do it well enough without it being so hokey as to defy the suspension of disbelief by the reader.

I have pictures to get moved from my phone, which is randomly rebooting itself, to my computer to upload them here, and hope to get to that soon(ish). It’s on my rather lengthy todo list, which resembles in practice like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper: it never seems to get smaller.

Until next time, peeps – and I promise to get back on the every day posting routine, no matter how mundane my life is, because it’s still good practice – be well.

But seriously, folks

Day five of server cleanup. At least we’re now to the point where I’m porting over massive amounts of data, now that all the database have been repaired. I should get hazard pay.

Some days, you just want a do over. Today is that day. A horribly bad night of sleep and bathroom runs (haha, runs, get it?) and a late night still working on aforementioned server equals feeling in the morning like laying in bed all day. Alas, a followup with my primary care doc thanks to my brief stint in the hospital called, so off I went.

And as I drove, I promptly had: spasms in my left side that came and went and came and went (plus they came and went there waiting for him, seeing him, and driving back), a coughing fit that turned into a sneezing fit, which made me forever grateful that I always have kleenex in my car now, and the realization that my left hip is absolutely killing me at the back of my pelvic bone. That feels almost bruised, although I have not looked at my ass in the mirror today to see if it is actually so. That might be an item for later, and I can check what I think was that bite on my ass at the same time. One check, one butt view, since those are both on the left. How efficient.

(Day six)

Ah, the pleasures of manually rebuilding a compromised server for someone and having them ask if the accounts have been recreated with random passwords. This is one of the joys of my life, really.

Blood work results are back: my cholesterol is well within normal range – remarkable, since not too long ago the doc put me on statins, each variety of which made me feel like crap and which I stopped taking. I suppose eating formula through a tube for most of your meals has that effect. On the downside, eating formula through a tube, balanced though it may be, can also lead to slightly oddball numbers in other areas, because when you think about it, it’s a slightly malnourished state of being. Fortunately, in my case, the blood work shows nothing so far out of range that’s something to worry about, so I’m not going to. I’m just going to keep pumping shakes and formula down the hatch (whichever one it may be), try to get my weight back up, and then get this stupid tube removed as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, I’ve written nothing this week, thanks to the server issue above. I’m hoping today will be the end of that, though, so I can return to my plans, delayed by a mere week.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

The lost weekend

OK, so it was not a weekend, and not as Oscar-worthy as the movie of that name (which is brilliant, by the way – you should watch it if you’ve never seen it). It was a few days during the week, and yours truly was back in the hospital with pneumonia. Again.

The  first sign of an issue: I slept for almost 11 hours straight, without waking up. Not normal for someone who regularly wakes up every 2 to 2.5 hours.  When I got up, I couldn’t really see – everything was sparkly, and not in the sparkly vampire sense, but in the sense of standing up too quickly, or getting heat stroke. So, we took my blood pressure, which was a rather alarming 64/48, then twice more because hey, you have to confirm these things, and the other two were not much different. I also stuck a finger in my handy pulse ox (O2) thing and it came back as 76%. Stuck it on another finger and got 80%. None of this is good. We called 911 and yours truly took a delightful ride in the ambulance to the ER. They gave me oxygen and fluids and finally I was back into normal ranges. But, I also got admitted because the chest xray showed lower lobe pneumonia, and they wanted to nuke me with some IV antibiotics.

And here’s where those sensitive to descriptions of bodily functions should stop reading. Seriously, if, say, reading about people puking gives you the heebie jeebies, stop here. I mean it.

Still here? Good. let’s have a little chat about heavy doses of antibiotics via IV, shall we?

The point of it all is to kill all the bad stuff, knocking it down quickly to a level where you can go home and take more antibiotics the way any normal person would take them, for x days. The problem is that those large doses of antibiotics kill everything – including the good little bacterial guys humming around in your guts, happily keeping things stabilized down there. You know what happens then?

Explosive diarrhea. And I don’t mean that in the joking, ha-ha sense, I mean that in the “OMG, am I going to make it to the bathroom before I shit my pants and the bed and everything between me and the bathroom” sense.

Fortunately, it’s kind of easy to tell from the gut rumbles when the time is close, so the astute patient hauls their ass out of bed and into the bathroom. This was made easier for me this time because they didn’t have me continuously hooked up to the IVs, so I was free to get up without having to take the IV stand with me.

And then, I got my independence from the hospital on Independence Day, July 4! I made my escape back to the ranch, and have two antibiotics to take, along with something they quaintly describe as being “for loose stool”. Thankfully, the doses are not high enough to cause me to have to race to the bathroom, so things are not quite as explosive as they were in the hospital. We should be thankful for some small favor every day, and right now, that one’s mine.

More later, peeps. Be well.

On not pushing

AKA: on not being a complete dumbass that you head out to do strenuous things just when you’re starting to feel whole again.

Today, a day when the forecast said 80% chance of rain, a day when that went to 0% chance of rain but overcast, would have been a fine day to do rounds of pulling weeds. But I didn’t, even though it wound up not raining today at the ranch.

After yesterday’s escapades with my guts trying to escape my body, I was a tad more prudent than I have been in the past, and I just said: nope. I stayed in, getting work done, doing end of the quarter stuff, finishing repairing my desk drawer as seen in a previous post, putting those things away, and so. For my efforts at minding myself, I was presented with just one horrible round of gut wrenching cramping.

Tomorrow, I plan to pop out to feed my bees and have a look at the peppers. There are some that have to mature to red before they’re ready to be put to some use: cayennes, paprikas, tabascos. As much as I’d like to get red bells out of the garden, so I can roast them and sock them away in the freezer for future batches of roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup – a favorite of mine, loaded with vitamins, fiber, and damn tasty to boot – it’s very difficult to get to stage red from stage green thanks to the weather and the bugs. The hot chiles are better about bugs (if I were a bug, the capsaicin would probably be a turnoff for me, too), but I haven’t really looked at those plants in about two weeks to see how the rains have treated them. The tomatoes are a disaster, this I know. It’s sad, because those really are the crown jewels of the garden, and it’s been a few years since we had harvests of any significance.

What I do not plan to do tomorrow is to go right back into overdrive mode to try to clean up a couple of months of lack of weeding in a couple of hours worth of work. I am slowly, every year, improving on what I’m doing out there to continually lessen the aggravation that is weeding, which will leave me more time to tend to the actual plants, do bug and worm hunts, and keep the plants productive for whatever their lifespans may be.

This weekend, I plan to start a new flat of tomato seeds, to see if I can squeeze in another planting. I tried this last year, but it didn’t work out well, as I started the flat too late for them to get going after transplant. This time, I’ll start earlier, and pick varieties that won’t (or shouldn’t) immediately keel over in August, the month of hellishness down here, and that have shorter maturity times, as it doesn’t make much sense to try to get a 90-day post transplant seedling to produce when that’s cutting to the very edge of what is the norm here toward the end of the year. I’ll also be doing some brassicas: broccoli, cauliflowers of different colors, and brussels sprouts, which I hate but other members of the family enjoy quite a lot.

Saturday is also July 1, the start of CampNano.  CampNano is a twice a year event put on by the same people who bring NaNoWiMo (National Novel Writing Month) to life once a year in November.  The goal for participants in NaNoWriMo in November is to write 50,000 words toward a novel during that month. CampNano, which opens in April and July, is a bit looser, and allows for almost any any kind of creative activity: revising, editing, writing poetry or nonfiction or essays music or pretty much anything else. There is no set target word count; each participant sets their own goal(s), whether that is to complete a revision, write/create x hour(s) a day or week, write something completely new, and so on. Participants are sorted into cabins, and can choose to create a cabin and have friends join it, or allow CampNaNo to assign participants to a random cabin, or to a cabin with other people in the same genre or pursuit.

I decided to throw my name into the participation bucket and I opted for them to group me with other people working on novels in my chosen genre (mystery, for this first book). A quick check this evening shows that there are 15 of us in the cabin, and I think that means we’re full up.  Time for us all to introduce ourselves, I suppose. For my goal, I want to complete the first draft of this thing that’s banging around in my head pretty completely. Those piles of notes in the picture from one of the previous posts does not actually contain a narrative outline for this book, because it’s almost fully formed in my head; however, I do plan on writing that narrative tomorrow or Friday to see how the scenes flow together on paper the way they do in my head. That way, I can pick out what doesn’t seem to work as well as I thought, rearrange it, and the story will be better for it, I’m sure.

If you’re an artist of some kind, you might want to check out CampNano. If you’re a novel(la) person, you might also want to check out NaNoWriMo in November, too.

For me, if this next month works out well, I may very well just start making every month a NaNoWriMo, in the same way I’m treating CampNaNo as one. After all, I have plenty of ideas.

Sick sick

What I’d really like from the universe: a fairly long length of time of feeling good. Not great. I don’t need great. But I don’t need a once a week visit from bug-o-the-week. Today appears to be that day. The bugger of the thing is that I felt pretty good over the weekend, and yesterday was good, too: three shakes, two cans of formula. This morning, though, I woke up queasy, had some dry heaves, thought that did it, started breakfast (such as it is for me) and it’s been downhill from there.

Now, I have my handy bottle of a popular sports drink, one flavor of which (available around here) does not cause my mouth to burn. I’m hoping this will go down, stay down, and I can get back on my horse – or tractor, since I mowed Friday, and you can’t even tell – and get back to what has now become my rather unfortunate normal.

The very definition of

Fitful sleeping.

I don’t sleep much or well. This dates back to my high school days, that I can remember. Tonight, though, is one of those really bad nights, where I sleep for at most an hour, but usually wake up after a much shorter time, anywhere from half an hour to (what I’ve measured right now) twelve minutes. The strange thing about this is that my mind thinks it has been a much longer time. In the current episode, I woke up after twelve minutes and my mind figured it had been at least two hours. My gut chimed in with some gas bubbles escaping around the stoma for the tube, so here I am, feeding at 3 AM, trying to get that calmed down, and thinking it would be really nice to get four hours of uninterrupted sleep. Such is the life of an insomniac: some nights are better than others, and this is one of those others.

To medicate or not to medicate, that is the question

For years, my blood pressure has been high every time I stepped foot into a doctor’s office or hospital. Not just a little high, but HIGH: anywhere from 150-170 over 100-130. The kind of readings that forever make the person taking my vitals ask me if I’m on blood pressure meds. “No,” I say. “Never have been, because my blood pressure is never high except when I come to see you.”

During the dark days of February this year, while I was in the hospital, my blood pressure sometimes rocketed up into the 180s (systolic – that’s the top number), at least once up to 200,  and the nurses would look at that, then look at me, ask me if I had a headache, dizziness,  or chest pain (no), and the doctors would order something to lower that to a better range ASAP. After all, on their charts, readings over 180 are in the emergency care bracket; i.e., the “is this person about to have a heart attack or stroke out on us?” range. While I was there, the med generally shot into my IV was hydralazine, which I found made me jumpy and anxious. So, on top of that, down went a xanax, to keep me calm. About an hour-ish later, they would take my blood pressure again, and the readings were anywhere from 110 to 130 (systolic), and that made them happy.

Fast forward to being discharged from the hospital, with two meds for blood pressure and an order to check in with my primary care physician. One was amlodipine, taken once and day, and the other was hydralazine, three times a day. My primary care doctor dropped the hydralazine and replaced it with a one per day lisinopril. I found my bp still bounced around, despite the meds, but a lot of times, when taking my bp, it was low. Very low: often the systolic was under 100 and the diastolic under 80. While this falls into the “normal” range, sometimes it was as low as 75/48 – far too low, and what it read Friday morning at 11:30, according to the record book I’m keeping.

Why does this matter? Because Friday afternoon, after feeling pretty good (although requiring a break that morning after 11:30, as I’d been out weeding), by Friday afternoon I was getting the hot/cold alternating feeling and a queasiness that told me I was in for a round of puking – or, in my case, dry heaving, which is what I mostly do. I had an orange just after 1 PM, and my bp was 94/57. Somewhere between 3 and 4 PM, when those alternating waves of hot/cold had started, the heaving began. It went on for over four hours. Ironically, when it began, I had just begun grinding up the anti-nausea meds I take, but had not managed to get down the tube. Once the heaving starts, it’s too late. So, for those hours, I sailed between contracting just about every muscle in my body as it tried to expel whatever it thought it needed to expel (but couldn’t) and napping in exhaustion briefly before the next round started.

The bad thing about all this is that the combined birthday party for the MonkeyBoy and the Soul Eating Baby was set for Saturday, and I was supposed to be smoking a couple of butt and making a batch of barbeque sauce. That, of course, absolutely did not happen, even though by Friday evening the waves of heaving had finally passed.

I finally managed to get the anti-nausea meds plus the other things I’m supposed to take down the tube, get some water in me, and basically slept on and off into Saturday morning. yesterday was much better, and today even more so, although I’d planned to climb into the bee suit today and do a quick, non-strenuous check of the hives. Tomorrow may be better for it.

I know you’re not supposed to do this, but I dropped the bp meds completely, beginning Saturday morning. I’ve found if I take my bp right when I wake up, it tends to be a bit high, but the rest of the time, it has been low: 99/67 this evening at 6 PM, before a tube feeding. Remember kids: it really isn’t advised to go off your meds without your doctor’s stamp of approval, and even though I did it in this instance (because I am the Captain) I do not recommend it.

So, things are a bit weird on ranch in the blood pressure arena, and there is going to have to be another chat with the doctor about this business, as this should not be something to have to worry about in addition to all the other things swirling around in this  current medical non-crisis-but-annoying-thing in March.

Also, fuck you, cancer, for making me so susceptible to aspiration pneumonia.

Stinger

Strawberry planting day at the ranch. Instead of black plastic, we use plastic flowerpots with the bottoms cut off. These go into the soil, with about two inches clear above the soil line. They are filled with soil to that two inch mark, and the strawberries go in. As they grow, we will train them over the rim. This will keep various insect type critters from going after the berries as easily as they would were the berries growing directly on the soil. It also helps with soil rot damage to the berries from the rain/watering then drying cycles we go through.

While Mom handled those, yours truly did another weeding run. When I am well, I can spend hours weeding if the gardens call for it (and right now they do) but at this moment, I pull enough weeds to fill one yard waste bag (basically, just a trash bag, but thinner), as that’s about as much as I can manage. Today I went after thistles that came up to my hip, with tons of puffball seeds just waiting to break loose and bury themselves in other areas of the garden. The simplest way to deal with seeding thistle: gently bend the stem with the puffballs – very, very gently, so as to not knock the puffballs yourself – and then use pruners to snip the stem about six inches or so under the puffballs. If the stem has already branched, snip six inches or so under the branch. Once snipped, gently – very gently – shove the clipped stem puffball first into a bag. Repeat as necessary. Once the puffballs are gone, snip the plant into manageable pieces and bag those, then pull the remainder of the plant up by the root.

In one area where I was pulling thistle, I encountered some stinging nettle. I reached for it before I realized what I was going for, and luckily, I did not grab a whole handful of it. The only stings I got were on my left index finger and the pad of my right hand. Yes, I weed bare-handed. I find that I just can’t grasp the weeds and pull them entirely, with their roots, out of the soil. For nettle, though, I made an exception, got my gloves, and pulled the giant thing out. Nettle spreads by rhizomes it sends out, so the actual root area can take some work to get to, as you have to work through the outer areas of the thing before you can pull the rest of it out and get the root. While stinging nettle does have some medicinal use, we do not grow it intentionally here, just as we do not grow purslane, which was the weed of the year when we first put in the gardens. This time around, the weeds of the year appear to be thistle and hawkweed, neither of which we want hanging around. There are masses of them, and I’m considering hiring some day labor to get all the weeding done, as there is no way I’ll be able to get it all done so my  plants can be put out.

Switching gears: those of you who stumbled across this here blog because of searches for oral cancer and/or tube feeding and/or medical things: welcome! A tip for those feeding via PEG, if you’re like me and have to do it slowly: when feeding the rather thick usual formula using the gravity drip method by  syringe, once you’ve poured some formula in, pour in some water as well. The water will help dilute the formula and prevent the formula from gumming up the tube opening (and the syringe opening).

(My dog Einstein grabbing a nap in the background.)

Once that run completes, pour about 20 ml or so of water down the tube as a mild flush to get any formula residue out of the tube opening. That way, the next round in about 10-15 minutes won’t encounter any blockages when you pour it down. This also helps keep your fluid uptake up, which will be better for you and keep the doctors happy. I run formula at a rate of 20-30 ml plus water every 15 minutes. One can of the formula I use is 237 ml, so it takes about two hours to complete a feed session with formula for me. In good sessions when I don’t feel like I’m going to burst or throw up (dry heaves, really), I can press that interval down to about five minutes or so.When the feeding session is complete, flush the tube with more water.

Another tip for those stuck with a PEG who have, or had oral cancer, and have to undergo radiation to the head and neck: keep eating and drinking by mouth if at all possible – even if it takes pain meds to do it – and do exercises to keep your mouth opening as wide as possible. Eating and drinking keeps the muscles working and helps deal with the inevitable scar tissue buildup, and also helps keep your gallbladder happy, by giving it something to do.  Since I didn’t, when I went back to eating by mouth after nine months on the tube, my gallbladder had basically turned into a bag of stones, and the pain from it trying to do anything was excruciating, ultimately resulting in another surgery to have it removed. The mouth opening exercises are as simple as continuing to open your mouth as wide as you can and holding it for ten seconds, doing five to ten reps of that, four or five times a day. Trismus is a horrible consequence of radiation therapy, and you don’t want to wind up with a seriously limited opening like I have, at about 13 mm. If you’re already past all the treatment, and you are dealing with trismus, do stretching exercises every day. In both cases, working with multiple sets every day instead of one set once a day seems to be better, based on the various papers I’ve read. Most utility treatment recommendations involve tongue depressors, but I have used a Therabite previously. Unfortunately, I have not been diligent in using it over the years. Since my unexpected hospital stay, however, I’m getting myself in order on that, and I’m now using it while I feed. I am aiming for five sessions a day, with ten reps per session, holding my mouth open for seven seconds each time. It can be painful, but the benefits far outweigh something that can be dealt with  by taking Advil/Tylenol or pain meds. There are other things you can do to make an effort to prevent trismus or help with it if you have developed it. A tip for Therabite use: once the pads are on the mouthpiece, I slip a sandwich bag over them when using it. That way, I avoid the necessity of changing the pads often due to slobber/drool/mucous all over them. Teeth in or teeth out? That’s up to you. Since my opening is so limited, I have to use it with teeth out, as I can’t fit it in my mouth when wearing them.

Time for another feed. Be well, peeps, and I’ll catch you next time.