Sometimes the steps are big, sometimes the steps are small, but they all lead to the same place: the OR.
Another blood draw today, for a comprehensive report, after one last week ordered by my GP, for thyroid levels (result: low, and they sent in an order for a higher dosage, recheck in two months).
The thing about those two months is that we’re looking at surgery in May – two months from now. They have other people with actual (fuck)cancer on the list before me, to which I said: that works out just fine, since I have bees coming next month, and those people need it way more than me right now.
My mom and one sister were in the office today, throwing questions at him. It was a good visit, and everyone is now happy – not happy that it needs to be done, but happy that we are in good hands and what we can expect during the surgery and the healing afterward.
I have a CT slated for Friday, and a visit with the plastic surgeon on April 9.
Bonus: it’s now the next day from when I started this post, and the nurse called us to tell us my calcium is low. So, when I go to pick up my new thyroid meds – because I had that checked last week, and it’s low – I have to look at calcium supps..
I spent quite a bit of time in the gardens today – more on that (with pics! – in the next one.
Had a bit of a chat with some of the fam about this upcoming next stage of my life, to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. It isn’t the greatest news, but we’ll all get through it.
I spent a little time today learning about “passive yawning”, which is a technique used to smell – if you’re no longer breathing through your nose, guess what? No smelling for you! Now, I can certainly see instances where this is handy: cleaning the chicken coop, or not being able to smell the fart bombs my dogs generate. But, my sense of smell is exceptional, and that will definitely be something I will miss. It looks like this technique will allow for some intentional olfactory response. Too bad there’s no real solution for subconscious continual response as there is for regular breathing. Bummer.
In other news, one of the chickens managed to get herself out of the fenced pasture. I got her back in, then started looking around for an egg, because I didn’t know how long she had been out. It wasn’t terribly difficult to find that it had been long enough for her to miss her date with the nesting boxes in the coop.
Prior to that eggscapade, I had worked the bees, as it was a gorgeous day: warm enough for the bees to be flying, but not so warm that you’d melt inside your bee suit. I wound up splitting #10 (to #15), and #6, in a double split, to #1 and #20. Very nice.
Then, as evening closed in, I grabbed the pizza dough I’d made and rolled into balls yesterday out of the fridge and started stretching them. After that, it was into the oven for them for a parbake. From there, they are heading for freezing until the fam and friend group has set a date to come over and have a pizza assembly party. For that party, we have a group of people handling various pieces of the construction: sauce, veggies, meats, cheese, etc. Once made, we will then vacuum pack those, et voila! Pizzas that can be pulled out of the freezer and go right into the oven to bake for an easy, fast dinner.
And then: work work work. I’d created a todo list of some major items to get out of the way so I could write without having my brain yammer at me. That list is now the list I need to get done (or as much done as possible in some cases) before whenever the surgery date is. Before I go under the scalpel again, I have to get bloodwork done, have a couple of CTs, meet with the plastic surgeon so he can decide where to harvest the flap of skin that will be used for the primary surgery site, and so on. It’s going to be another medical adventure for me!
That’s it for today, which has turned into tomorrow as I put this together. As always, until next time, peeps: be well.
This didn’t go up yesterday as planned because it’s taking me a bit longer to finish it than I originally thought it would.
So. I had an appointment with my ENT and since the appointment was early in the morning and it takes me about an hour and a half to get the bulk of the mucus out of my face to a point where I get some relief for a bit, I had to take off with tons of crap in my throat. A lot of people don’t get why this is an issue, but think of it this way; ever gargled? That’s how I sound when I first get up and throughout the day when the mucus starts building up again. It’s why I’m constantly clearing my throat. It’s the reason for my chronic cough and why I can’t do something as simple as go to a movie – after all, I don’t want to be that person coughing through a movie and annoying everyone.
Anyhow, last visit we had discussed, briefly, a laryngectomy. At the time, I said no, I didn’t want to do that at this time. I may hate how my voice sounds, and I may not have much of a voice, but I have one. The problem there, as with everything related to this cancer and its treatment (hey, fuck you, cancer) is that it will only continue to get worse, in the same way my teeth continued to devolve to the point where it was time to just have them all removed. And it has: it is noticeably worse to me now than it was a month ago, and much worse than it was six months ago.
As he was checking my mouth just visually by eye, he broke out a dental mirror and looked down the back of my mouth into my throat. “Oh yeah, drowning in mucus.”
Not what you want to hear, even if you know this to be true. He broke out the scope (a rhinolaryngoscope, if you’re inclined to boost your knowledge of medical tools), went in through my right nostril, and had a closer look. During this, if the doctor is trying to gauge vocal cord activity, they’ll have you say “eeeeeee”, breathe deeply, say “hah hah hah”, and possibly swallow, if you’re able. We went through all of this, and he took pictures.
I’ve know I’ve had partial paralysis in my left vocal cord for awhile now, thanks to my previous ENT. We’ve also known that I’ve been suffering from laryngospasms, where the cords won’t release from being contracted when I do something like lift a heavy weight – a bee hive body, for instance – or when doing something like moving the mobile chicken coop, or even bending over. Since most of you reading this will say, big deal, I’ll tell you what it feels like: suffocation. It’s unpleasant, and scary. But, since I knew what was happening, the instapanic I used to feel I replaced with just trying to stay calm, and try to breathe normally until they did release. This is not an easy thing to live with, especially if you have, as I do, many and varied things you do that will cause these spasms to occur.
We’ve also known that the combination of my vocal cord issues and the degradation of my epiglottis were why I repeatedly suffered from aspiration pneumonia for two entire years. That’s why I have a feeding tube and have had zero by mouth for a year now.
Now, back to today. The scope clearly showed mucus hanging around, trying to chat up the ladies, and generally being a punk.
The mucus is the globby lighter colored stuff in the center of the image. There was more of it, but I had managed – through coughing while bent over at the waist to let gravity help – to show the doctor how I usually got some of it out. Obviously, not a really viable method, and just as obviously, although I did manage to get quite a bit out, there was still quite a bit left. This, my doctor said (and I agreed) was not a sustainable method of dealing with this, and there was a very real possibility that it would devolve to the point where this could (and probably would) kill me, either by covering my airway to the point where I did in fact suffocate, or, if I got an infection of some sort, by having infected mucus make its way into my lungs and have a pneumonia party there.
We also found that my vocal cords are now not closing fully and not opening fully – the latter is one of the reasons I feel like I can’t breathe and periodically take giant gulps of air. This is no way to live.
I knew it would eventually come to this point, and we talked again about a complete laryngectomy. That would solve the mucus/breathing problem, and also (maybe) allow me to eat by mouth again, even if only the same liquid/puree/soft food diet I was on before. Even if I did get dentures again, I can’t open my mouth widely enough to get them in right now, and the lack of a ridge on the left lower side makes it difficult to keep them in place to eat. But that’s a different struggle, for a different time.
Since I’d been researching laryngectomies after that last visit, I knew what was involved, I knew how the procedure was generally performed, and I knew the possible outcomes. There is the danger that I will not be able to speak any better than I do now, and that it might even be worse. As I’ve been without a true voice since the original cancer, though, and I barely speak now, I can’t see this as a loss or something I am not already used to. I do plan to record myself saying various things that are important to me. That includes things I say to my dogs, because they are just as important to me as the people in my life.
There is the possibility that I will not, in fact, be able to eat by mouth after healing from the procedure. Again, I say: I am already at this point, and much as I’d like to be able to eat real food again, it is highly likely I will have a feeding tube in place for the rest of my life even if I do manage to eat by mouth, simply to ensure I can get enough calories in to sustain me, given how difficult it is for me to eat.
I’d already made up my mind in the office as we were talking and looking over the scope images, but I knew I had to talk the most important person: mom. Two weeks from yesterday, we will head back to the ENT, to have a talk with him, the plastic surgeon who will want to look me over for the best place to take a flap of skin for resectioning, the speech therapy woman (who was the one who I saw for the original swallow test), and the ENT’s primary nurse. When I talked to my mom after the visit, and told her everything, it was clear to me she also knew that this was indeed the correct path. As she said, we may look at a terrible situation and feel badly/pitiful/pissed off for about a minute, but then we get ourselves together, make the decision, and deal with it head on.
Which is what we will do. The visit on the 19th is essentially a pre-op consultation, and we will make a decision then on when to have the surgery.
The only complication here is that I have someone going on vacation the first week of April, and I have bees coming in March and April. I also really need to go into overdrive on some of the things on my todo list.
So I had a CT on my guts yesterday, because I’ve been having some pain around where the balloon is in my stomach. This time around, I got the great thrill of “drinking” barium as well. I’ve done barium swallows before, and the stuff is not totally off-putting, but at least this time I didn’t have to taste it: right down the tube, two 450 mL bottles.
We’re going into the next nectar flow down here, and I’m hoping the established hives will be laying in good amounts of honey I can take off them next month/into October. Word of mouth for our honey is terrific: we heard from a person who knew someone who knew someone who got a bottle of our honey at some point, and that person wanted some. After she got some directly for us, she contacted us not too long after, with eight(!) people who wanted some.
What this means, of course, is that I need more bees! I’m planning on expanding pretty seriously next spring via splits of the hives out in the beeyard right now. This year, I made two splits from hive #8, the hive who kept their 2016 queen well into 2017 but then replaced her on their own. That queen is still there (for now) and she is a laying machine. The two daughter hives: also laying machines. Her genetics are those I want to establish more of in the yard. Better layer = more bees – more production = more honey = better split maker. This is a photo of some larvae and some eggs (the rice-looking things in the cells just below and left of center).
There are also some bee butts just above center: the nurse bees crawl into the cells to feed the larvae as they develop. To the far left is capped brood; the larvae in those cells will develop into bees who will then chew their way out of the cell and then start working in the hive.
The cover crop germinated and is taking over the half frame row that I threw down. More to come of that for soil building!
Today, mowing, including some areas that have been under water for two weeks and avoided the cut they needed. Today, though: down with the high grass!
There’s an old movie called The Lost Weekend. Ray Milland stars as Don, an alcoholic writer willing to pawn anything or steal from anyone to get a few bucks to buy whisky. (It’s an excellent movie and you should watch it – Milland rightfully won an Oscar for his part in the film, and Billy Wilder took home a Best Director statuette.)
I had a dream the other night where Robert Redford (of all people) for some reason asked me what I really, really wanted to do. I had no answer, which was odd, because I do know I want to write and run my business and have my dogs and my bees and my chickens, and that’s what I’m doing. I don’t recall the actual context around the question in the dream – was I someone else, or myself, doing something other than I am now? Maybe.
Anyhow, I missed yesterday’s blog appointment because I was dealing with a massive issue with work that I’m not going to go into except to say it sucked. Royally. Today, we’ve dealt with two majo spamming issues related to peoples’ contact forms on their web sites. For the love of whatever you hold holy, put a fucking captcha on your forms. And DO NOT enable any “send a copy of this to yourself, submitter” crap. It’s an invitation to arbitrarily insert anyone’s email address and spammers will find it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they will, eventually, unless you secure it.
There ends your tech lesson for the day.
The chicks continue to live by the tenets of their lives, which is to eat, drinks, poop, and sleep, in any order they feel like it. At least they know what they really, really want to do. The meat birds, bred to get big, very quickly, are certainly living up to it. After a mere week, they are twice the size of their layer bird companions. Some of them just sit in front of the feeder and eat, sleeping in the same spot. When they go out on pasture, I’ll only be feeding them once during the day. What they eat in the daylight hours will be it until the next day. Letting them eat freely 24/7 for all their time will be too hard on their bodies, and they’re not terribly good about reining in their eating habits.
Got a start today on dry fitting the pieces together for the chicken tractor the meat birds will call home. It’s probably too large for the ten of them, but it’s easier to get more chickens down the line and have the space available than it is to decide to get more in a batch and have to scramble to make a new, larger tractor for them.
We’ll also have the mobile layers to move around the place. At first, there will only be five in there, but we would be able to put more if needed, and if the whole meat bird thing works out, I’d really like to get some turkeys next year in addition to more meat birds, to have for the holidays. And they would be hanging out with the layer birds, so it would be nice to be able to move them with the layers and let them range alongside.
Tomorrow, I get to pour barium down my tube and go get my guts scanned. I can’t eat anything, either, which is why I’m about to have my last meal, as it were, just after I post this. It’s gonna be a thrill, I’m sure.
Anyone raised on, near, or around a farm would know immediately.
I was up until after 5:30 this morning transferring mail from one server to another. While one rather large batch was transferring, I took the opportunity to grab a quick nap. I got back up, set off another item, went back to bed for about 40 minutes, then got back up again, unpacked something, updated a ticket, and hauled myself out for some physical therapy related to laryngospasms, which are unpleasant and make you feel like you’re going to die because you can’t breathe. I then waited at the rehab place for 45 minutes before actually getting into it. If I had not been short on both sleep and food, I probably would have been more charitable in my mind about waiting – again – for some medical-related bullshit. To make things even more exciting, I have an appointment with an ortho tomorrow, then on the 3rd, 7th, and 9th, with different doctors, with a followup at the rehab place on the 14th. Thrilling. Also, fuck cancer. If you’re offended by the f word….this probably is not the place for you.
The chicks have shipped, according to an email from the hatchery. I’m hoping they arrive tomorrow, but they can survive up to three days in transit – shorter times are better, of course, but such is the wonder of being able to order just about anything through the mail.
I had planned on mowing late this afternoon, but it has been so humid here today that nothing dried out. Such if the wonder of Florida.
The even weirder than normal sleep thing and food thing have me off my feed in the “I feel odd” way. I’m hoping that will pass if this little tech world of mine cools it a bit. I’m hoping that getting this done and getting some writing done will help, too. Killing off someone – literarily speaking, of course – does wonders for one’s mood.
I was looking to the skies the other night – the moon and Mars are very close to one another in the early evening sky, and got this shot of the moon.
I’d like to think it takes itself off for a nice vacation, doing whatever it wants to do instead of being constrained by responsibility.
Whatever it does, it has the habit of leaving us – arbitrary timekeepers that we are – wondering how it could be almost x time since we last did y. Like almost three weeks since the last blog entry.
Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that well since that sinus infection back in May. Feeling nauseated almost constantly is not conducive to doing a lot of the things you normally would do. Pain? Meh, you could work through that in some fashion. But nausea? Nope. I was also having hot flashes like crazy. Terribly annoying.
Which is a roundabout way of saying the gardens suffered tremendously: overrun with weeds, beaten down by both the heat and the rain. We got some tomatoes out, but none of the big guys, and we got some beans and peppers out, but not in the quantity we have had in years past.
The people who ate these tell me they tasted fantastic.
The rest: determinate and not, paste, slicing,and heirloom, gave us nothing. My sister has been helping me out while I figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I had her go ahead and pull out all the first round tomatoes. I have some in the garden that were started after the big batch of transplants, and I have some more started in the barn – two more sets, actually, with one set ready to get hardened off and then transplanted.
We did get some good blueberry action this year.
I used them in my shakes, and everyone else just ate them like normal people do.
So how did I get back to myself? I realized I had stopped taking the gabapentin (neurontin) back in May during the sinus thing, along with some of my other meds, because the combination of the antibiotics and meds that already have some side effects (like nausea, and other gastro issues) was making everything worse. I added those back into my routine, and presto! The gabapentin was prescribed for the nerve issues from my left neck down through my hand (hey, fuck you, cancer!) but amazingly, it also takes care of hot flashes. Who knew? Not me, or I would have twigged on that sooner than the past couple of weeks. Derp.
With the meds situation back in order, I’m now able to once again do things I need to do, like turn this:
And finally, into this:
That’s a good late afternoon’s work there.It has to be done later in the day, because it’s been hot like the sun here for weeks now. In the afternoons, we get storms rolling through – even if they don’t touch us directly, we usually get some cloud cover, and sometimes even a cooler breeze, which is nice.
Tomorrow, it will be on to the next row that needs to be weeded – the one to the left of this final picture. I’ll also be starting new soil block flats for the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels (ew) and maybe a couple of other late-season items, so they can go in to the rows and get grown before the season ends. It’s a nice goal to have, anyway.
I love corn (or at least I did in my former, eating life). It is, in fact, my personal windmill here at the ranch – I’ve tried to grow it here for years (until this year) and it simply doesn’t work due to the vagaries of our weather/storms. This year, I didn’t bother.
As many of you know, since about mid-April, I’ve been NPO. That’s “nothing by mouth” for those not into medical jargon. 99% of everything goes down the tube. That includes the high calorie formula, weighing in at 355 calories per eight ounce carton. Most of those calories come from two things: sugars and fats. The latter is oils (safflower, for instance). The former? Corn. Corn syrup and corn syrup solids.
Last month, I started getting some serious gatro aches after eating. I shrugged it off and continued on, because let’s face it, I need the calories. I went through a few rounds of dehydration through the month as well, because it’s just damn hard to stuff yourself full of fluids you would ordinarily drink along and along throughout the day.
I got past it, though I still had some gut things going on. I dropped the formula, and amazingly, while I was still a little weak from trying to get enough calories in otherwise, the gut stuff pretty much stopped. Until the other day, when suddenly, once again, I’m having the weirdest issues when I eat. I’ve checked everything going down, and no corn syrup/solids or HFCS. I pared down my meals, such as they are, and found less is better, even though this means I’ll have to eat more frequently throughout the day, which is really a pain in the ass. And my side still hurts when I eat anyhow, regardless of whether I feel like puking or not.
Recommendation: don’t get any kind of cancer that ends with you having to take your meals through a tube for the rest of your life. It sucks.
(Yes, before the questions come, I have an appointment with the gastro folks on Monday to see what the hell is going on.)
So yesterday I had to give in and go to the doc. Pneumonia, ruled out. Ear infection(s), ruled out. Sinus….bingo. The stuff that can come out of your face is remarkable in the collection of colors it takes on when you’re ill. Probably should have gone sooner, but I hate waiting around in medical offices, even though they’re like a second home to me now. And I also hate antibiotics because of their – how to put this delicately? – rather deleterious effects on the gastro system. But that’s where we are.
The interesting thing about this is the weird drug interaction effects I’m having. I took all my meds with a feed – everything goes down the tube – and about five minutes later I felt stranger than I’ve ever felt on meds. In my mind, I imagine this may be what those folks back in the 60s felt when experimenting with various narcotics. In the here and now, it made me a bit of a zombie. On the plus side, I am catching naps here and there, thanks to it all, which is good since I’m an insomniac and every little bit helps.
Today’s goal: a shower. Simple. It will probably sap all my energy, but that’s what feeds are for. I’m a little pissed because my plans had been to transplant the rest of the seedlings from their flats, as it is WAY past time for that, but I just don’t have it together enough at the moment. So, maybe another day of not doing much of anything will prove to be what I need.
I know this one was supposed to be done yesterday, but eh, life called and wouldn’t stop yammering. You know the type.