Saturday, August 10, 2019

There Is A Code For That... Or Is There?

A week ago Ross experienced  an unusual medical episode.  It happened mid afternoon on a Friday.
We weren't sure if was an anomaly or something that may reoccur.  I suggested we call Ross' primary care physician.

The call was picked up by the answering machine with the following information and instructions:
      "The Doctor's office is closed right now.  If this is an emergency please call 911."

I suggested Ross call one of the specialists he sees.   That office did pick up the phone.  We explained what Ross had experienced.   The receptionist determined that since Ross wasn't having difficulty with that doctor's particular proficiency, we should call his primary care physician.
We told the receptionist that the primary care physician was not in the office.  She suggested that if we felt we couldn't wait until Monday, we should go to the hospital emergency room.

We tried another one of  Ross' speciality doctors and we were told the same thing.

Our health insurance has a service called "Nurseline".   The nurse would be able to give advice about who you should call if you are unsure about which type of physician you should contact based on the symptoms you are having.
We told our "story" to the first "nurse".  She listened to the whole thing and then explained that she wasn't a nurse.  "I only handle insurance claims," she said.   I can transfer you to the Nurseline.
A pleasant woman answered the phone.  I asked if she was a nurse.  She said yes.
I told our "story".  She said, "Would you like me to set up in-home nurse care?"
I was confused because what we were describing would not have required in-home nursing care.   I told her that we thought we were talking to someone who could direct us to the type of physician we should be contacting.   She said, "Oh you want the Nurseline."  I'll transfer you.

We finally did speak to the nurse from the "Nurseline".  She told us to contact our primary care physician.

And around and around we go.

I called our Primary Care doctor first thing on Monday morning.   I asked if Ross could come in that day to see the doctor.  The receptionist asked why he wanted to be seen.   I admit I was being a little vague, on purpose.  I thought Ross would feel more comfortable speaking confidentially with the doctor.
"He's just not feeling right," I said.   She pressed for more details.  I finally told her that it was a follow up visit to a recent emergency room visit.  Which it kind of was.
She told us that the earliest Ross could be seen was Friday.
"If you feel he needs to be seen before then, I suggest you go to the emergency room."

I suspect the receptionist was pressing for us to state a more specific reason that Ross wanted to be seen was so that she could find the proper code to check off on the insurance forms.

Of course if we thought what Ross experienced was an emergency, we would have sought immediate care.

I remember, not that long ago, if the doctor was not available in the office, the patient would be able to leave their phone number and the doctor would return the call.

I also remember, maybe a little longer ago, when the doctor would agree to meet you in the office, during off hours.

I understand and appreciate the fact that there have been incredible advances in the science of medicine.

What I don't understand and do not appreciate is the fact health care seems to be driven by whether or not you are in or out of "network", whether or not your insurance is accepted and whether or not "there is a code for that".

By the way we did see the doctor on Friday.  He is a good doctor.  We like him.  He was reassuring and we felt much better after he spent time with us.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

On A Hot Sunday Afternoon in July

On A Hot Sunday Afternoon in July

As you can see Weatherbug is reporting the type of weather that keeps us indoors.  Anyway, Ross is feeling a little under  the weather, so it's just as well.

We are watching a series we have discovered called "A Placed To Call Home".

We're finding it interesting enough.  I believe there are six seasons.  So we are spoon feeding them, a few episodes at a clip.

I have started a new type of crochet craft.  I used to enjoy doing this many years ago.   It has since gone out of style.
No one uses doilies any more, do they?

A few days ago as I was attempting to de-clutter my clothes closet, which also doubles as my craft closet, I came across a group of  vintage crochet instruction pamphlets.  I had stashed them away in a dark green Rubbermaid tub with an impossibly difficult-to-open top.   Which is why I rarely go into that tub.
The intricate designs of the lacy doilies and table clothes piqued my interest.   I saw them in a new light, as pieces of art, really.

I am the type of person who can easily get obsessive.  Which is what I did when I decided I was going to crochet the "Pineapple Merry-Go-Round Doily", featured in the photo there.

I knew I had a ball of crochet thread somewhere in the closet.  I knew this because every time I got in the closet de-clutter mood, I would come across this ball of thread and debate with myself as to whether I should toss it out or not.  I was pretty sure I always voted to keep it.

I began to furiously rummage.  After fifteen minutes of an on my hands and knees session of  opening bins,  pulling out, and pushing stuff aside, I emerged from the closet, flushed, hair standing on end, with my treasure tightly clasped in my sweaty little hands.

Now all I needed was a very thin steel crochet hook.
I knew I had a stash of them.  I acquired a least 50-75 of these hooks over the years. Back when I was into the doily thing, I made sure I had every size I needed.  I also purchased vintage ones at estate auctions.
So I reluctantly went back into the now turned upside down craft/clothes closet.

As I was hunting around I pulled out an old sewing chest, again one I purchased at an estate auction.  I was sure that's where I kept the hooks.  When I opened up the chest, though, it was empty.  That's when I remembered that I had sold all of my steel crochet hooks on eBay.  That would have been about a year ago, the last time I did a craft/clothes closet de-clutter.  Apparently, the hooks lost that keep/throw out vote.
In my heated obsessive state, I was determined, though.  I must have kept at least one, I thought.
After I checked every possible junk nook and cranny, I found one in the coffee cup/pencil holder on my desk.  I guess it was one I couldn't sell.



See how tiny and thin these hooks are?

I was all set to go.  The closet would have to wait to be re-straightened and decluttered.

I started working on this doily three days ago. The pattern is total mind control and I have immersed.
It is extremely challenging.  I refer you again to the tiny hook.
I have restarted instruction number 9 at least a dozen times.   But today, today I conquered instruction number 9.   I whizzed through 10, 11 and 12.  I'm not sure what challenges "lucky" number 13 is going to bring.  But I say bring it on!

Tomorrow is Ross' last radiation treatment.  Hopefully, he will feel okay and will be able to go.

We are both relieved that this part of his treatment is over.   I can't say it flew by, because that's not how it felt.
I would describe it as each day floating by, the days blurring one into the other.

So far I've managed to maintain an even temperament, only feeling an imminent breakdown a minimal amount of times.

So, in case you haven't guessed by now, that's what the total immersion, obsessive doily making is really all about.  I don't think about cancer when I'm attempting a triple crochet cluster shell with a picot on top.


 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Life Curve Ball and CBD

July 17, 2019
Wednesday

As we head into the rest of the summer, Ross is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  He has eight more treatments to go.  YAY!   Aside from the tiredness, he's feeling well.

I've had a birthday and we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary.



One of the things I have struggled with throughout my life is anxiety.  Having read a bit about the wide range of symptoms which can be attributed to anxiety, I would classify what I deal with as "manageable".  By that I mean it doesn't affect my life on a daily basis, but is more likely triggered by stress levels caused by life's curve balls.

Since we are currently in the midst of one of those curve balls, I have been wondering what I can do to manage the anxiety and stress.

Which brings me to today's topic.  The "miracle" of Cannabidiol or more commonly known as CBD,

According to an article in the Harvard Health Blog:

"CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control."
I've been toying with the idea of trying CBD for a few months.  During that time it seems as though the availability of CBD has become more widespread.
There are flag signs outside of all sorts of stores and shops advertising CBD.   It seems as though smoke shops were the first to bring CBD into their inventory.  Since I don't smoke (any kind of anything), I was hesitant to wander into one of "those" kind of stores.
Recently I noticed that our little local party store was flying the CBD flag outside of their shop.
When we entered the store, I wondered which aisle would contain the shelf holding the CBD products.
Party hats?  Balloons?  "Over the Hill" paraphernalia?
The woman behind the counter obviously noticed my furrowed brow and unsure demeanor.
"Can I help you find something?" she asked.
She was a friendly sort, introduced herself as "Patty" and was quite willing to tout the benefits of CBD.  Which, by the way, the various products were locked in a small cabinet on top of the counter.
Before I go further, I must tell you that I have been quite skeptical about the miraculous efficacy of CBD.
So, Patty had quite a job ahead of her to convince me.
But, Patty told us of a personal experience she had which led me and Ross to walk out the door with $100 worth of CBD products.

Apparently, Patty also has anxiety issues.   She also had been leery of CBD.  Her partner, Fran, though, was a proponent and advocate and swore by it.   But Fran could not get Patty to try it.
One day, Patty's father was rushed to the hospital.   Patty has extreme anxiety when faced with illness, hospitals and especially elevators.  All of which is what she would have to immediately be able to cope with.
In the middle of her panic, as she cried to Fran, that she would not be able to handle any of it, Fran said to Patty, "Open your mouth!"
She put a drop of oil under Patty's tongue and according to Patty, she immediately  started to calm down.

I thought, okay if it can work for Patty, it should work for me.

I bought the Gummy Bears.  Since Ross talked about pain in his neck, she pointed out the the cream would work well.  We got that too.
Patty told me to take on every morning, like a vitamin.   She said, "You don't have to wait for tomorrow morning, take one when you get home."
Which I did.
Here is what I experienced.   I immediately felt a strange sensation in my limbs.  Arms and legs.  I also began to get nauseous.   I  became jittery and irritable.  Perhaps the jittery and irritable feelings happened because I was upset about the other sensations.  I don't know.
I finally had to take an Ativan (tranquilizer) to settle down.
Since that first time, I was willing to try again, but with a lower dose.  I cut the gummy into quarters.  A quarter of the gummy did not seem to have any effect, good or bad on me.
I have not tried again.
Ross has yet to try the cream.

Now, every evening I take about a 1-1/4 mile walk around the neighborhood.  I listen to a book while I walk.  Currently I am listening to "Commonwealth" by Anne Patchett.
After my walk I settle in for some TV viewing and knitting.  I am working on a scrappy afghan.


Walking, listening to a book and knitting seem to be the "miracle" remedies I need to quiet the anxiety and stress of this latest life curve ball.

Have you tried any of the CBD products?  Have they worked for you?



Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Rest of The Story - Our Mini-Vacay in the ER

The ER
The last week in June has been the week that our family spends in Ocean City.  To accommodate the thirteen of us, we rent a couple of houses for the week. It has always been one of my favorite times.

This year because Ross has to have daily radiation treatments for his prostate cancer, we couldn't stay for the whole week.   We decided we would book a room at the nicest hotel in OC for the weekend.


Our reservations were for Saturday and Sunday night.

We had a nice day on Saturday, got in a little sun time at the pool and visited with the family at their rental in the evening.

Ross woke early on Sunday not feeling well.  We decided to head home.  Fortunately, we only live 45 minutes from OC.

A few hours after we got home, Ross' symptoms became more concerning.  Enough so that I called 911.

Our local EMT, emergency services are excellent.  Two ambulances and a police officer came within minutes.

They determined that what Ross was experiencing was not life threatening but recommended an Emergency Room visit.

This is where the real story begins.
We got to the hospital at 12:30 p.m.

Emergency room time is different from normal time.  It surely slows down in an emergency room.

There is a sign in each cubicle stating the times that one should expect to wait.  For instance, standard blood work and run of the mill X-rays might take one to two hours before results are known.
It's a three to four hour wait if you are having a CT scan.

I guess the emergency room Public Relations people thought that having an "expectation sign" posted would make the patients more patient.

Trust me, as the hours and hours go by, the sign becomes less effective.

I have a feeling that everyone reading this has had experience with hospital emergency rooms.

The mere fact that one is in a hospital emergency room is certain to bring on anxiety.

Over the years, one of the things I sadly have had to learn when dealing with medical situations is to be a patient advocate.  That also goes for times when the patient has been me.
I question everything.

For instance, before a diagnosis was specifically made the nurse came in hauling vials of medicine.
"I have your medications Mr. G," she cheerfully said.
"What are you giving him?"  I asked.
She rattled off the names of the medicines.
"What are they for?"  I asked.
She told us and I asked Ross if he wanted to take them.  He declined.
I must explain here that the medicines were for the symptoms Ross described.  Pretty much over the counter stomach soothers.
The point I am making is that the nurse was going to administer these medicines without explaining what they were why they were being given.
"I got the order from the doctor,"  she explained.  As if that was the only explanation we needed.

It's at this point that our story becomes scary.

I think by now it was about 3:00 pm.
The nurse came in with a cup filled with liquid.  She extended it to Ross and told him that he needed to "drink this".

"The doctor has ordered a CT scan," she told us.

"Why?"  I asked.

She explained that the doctor thought he saw something suspicious on one of the routine X-rays and wanted to get a more detailed picture.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you the stomach dropping, heart stopping feeling we experienced at that moment.

We asked to speak to the doctor.   A half-hour later he popped in.

He convinced us that the CT scan was necessary.

The time frame for a CT scan is this:  One hour after the patient finishes the drink, he is taken for the scan, then it takes 2-3 hours for the results.

The waiting was hard. 

After about 90 minutes the ER doc came in and explained that what he suspected was indeed true and he had ordered a surgeon to come in.  It would take about two hours for the surgeon to get to the hospital.   Then he left the room.

As you can imagine we were in shock, tired, and trying to digest what we were just told.

We asked to speak to the doctor again.

"Sorry, but he left." we were told.
Apparently his shift was over and another ER doctor, Dr. Galapos (not his real name) was then assigned to Ross.

Dr. Galapos came in to explain the condition that Ross had and depending on the severity, what the possible treatments might be.

I asked to see the CT scan results.

What happened next is still unbelievable to me.

A few minutes later, Dr. Galapos came back into the room.

"I've cancelled the surgeon," he said.
He went on to explain that the CT scan report indicated that Ross did not have what the original ER doctor suspected.

I was baffled.  No, more than that, I was relieved but furious at the same time.

Apparently the first ER doctor was in such a hurry to leave that even he didn't have the patience to wait for the CT scan results!

But, because one of the symptoms that Ross originally described could be heart related, Dr. Galapos still recommended that Ross stay for 24 hour observation.

By the way, Ross was feeling fine at this point.  All of his heart tests were negative.

We agreed for one reason alone.  Ross' cardiologist, Dr VJ would be in to see Ross the first thing in the morning.

Ross finally got into a room at 8:30 p.m.   Exhausted and hungry, I left to go home.

Dr. VJ did see Ross first thing in the morning and cleared him for release. 

By the way before the paper work was done and his IV removed, two people came into the room with orders for additional testing.  I had to explain that Ross had been released.  After verifying with the doctor they apologized and went away.

Need I say this?  Be your own patient advocate!

Aside from an occasional bout of anxiety, Ross has been doing okay. 


This is how I prefer to remember our weekend.









Thursday, June 27, 2019

I Had A Keratin Treatment and I Love It!

Update on my Keratin Treatment


In a recent post titled "Because I'm Worth It" I wrote about the protein treatment I was going to get on my hair.  The treatment is commonly known as Keratin.  As I wrote in my post, Keratin is supposed to bring youth back to your hair.  Smooth it out and eliminate frizz. 

There are two versions of the treatment.   A full and a mini or express.  I opted for the express version for two reasons.
First was the cost.  The price of the full process is about twice what the express costs. 

Amy, the hair stylist told me that the express would probably last at 6 weeks.   (The full lasts a couple of months and takes twice as long to apply.)

Second, I wasn't sure I would be happy, so I figured the mini would be a good trial.

When I wrote that post I had not yet gone for the treatment and had posted "before" pictures of my hair.

Before Pictures




I had the process done (along with a hair cut) and I highly recommend it!  It definitely made my hair softer, smoother and eliminated the frizz.
Amy suggested that I buy shampoo and conditioner specifically made for Keratin treated hair.  That was an additional cost, but the products should last for months. 


Here are a few "after" pictures.





Last weekend Ross and I thought a little get-a-way was in order.   We booked a hotel room in a NJ beach resort a little ways from where we live. 

It didn't quite work out the way we hoped. 


Yes, there is a story.  More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Because I'm Worth It!

I've decided to obsess about my hair.  It's interesting how easily I can distract myself from my current reality.

I let my hair go gray (or is it grey?) about four years ago. While I did it strictly for practical reasons, I fell for the kindnesses I received from various people who gushed about how beautiful my hair looked.

The practicality of not coloring my hair is two-fold.  First,  I don't have to take the time to get a touch up every three weeks.   Speaking of that, I came to realize that if I didn't have that touch up every three weeks, the streak of gray along the roots was too obvious to fool anyone into thinking that chestnut brown was my natural color.
I did not like the mess of doing my own at home. Anyway I wasn't doing such a good job of it.  So I would get it done at the salon.  This brings me to the second practical reason of letting my hair go gray.  It gets expensive.


First Time Application
*$65.00 & Up
Retouch on 4-6 weeks
*$60.00 & Up
Retouch w/ Blow Dry
$70.00 & Up
Retouch w/ Haircut and  Blow Dry
$80.00 & Up

 

About the same time that I stopped coloring my hair, I also let it grow a little longer than I had been wearing it. 

That was a savings too.  Not as many trips to the salon to get a hair cut. 

Reading about why our hair grays is pretty depressing. 


Science of Grays
Your hair follicles have pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its color. As you age, these cells start to die. Without pigment, new hair strands grow in lighter and take on various shades of gray, silver, and eventually white. Once a follicle stops making melanin, it won’t make colored strands again.
Gray hair is thinner than hair with natural color because its cuticle is thinner. Your hair needs that natural protection from water, ultraviolet rays from the sun, humidity, chemicals, and heat styling. Without that barrier, your hair loses water. So your gray will feel dry, fragile, and coarse.

My hair is more white than gray.  It is definitely dry, fragile and coarse.
Lately I have been giving serious thought to cutting my hair short and dying it a color.

I was talking to Judy, the woman who does my nails, the other day.  She told me that, "You should absolutely color your hair!"
"Get it cut really short and spiky," she said.  "And, oh, get some really funky glasses too!" she said.

  While Judy was going on about what I should do with my hair, I envisioned something like this:


Judy's alternate suggestion was more interesting to me.  She told me about a treatment I could get which would "make you have teenage hair!"
My ears perked up at that.
"Really?"  I asked.
She assured me, "It's wonderful!" she said.
"I get it done all the time," she said.
I think she saw the puzzled look on my face as she caught me looking at her hair.
"Oh, I am due for one," she said.

The treatment Judy told me about is called Keratin
Keratin is the protein in hair that makes it strong and lustrous. It tends to be weaker in curly and textured hair, which can result in dryness and frizz. Keratin treatments are a game-changer for people with tough-to-tame locks. Performed in salons by professionals, the treatments coat the strands with the protein to make them smooth. Some treatments make hair pin straight for months, while other formulas simply eliminate frizz. Choose the right keratin treatment for your hair type and styling needs to get the most from the smoothing wonder.

I'm interested.  I mean, come on!  Teenage hair! 

I've made an appointment for Thursday to get this miracle treatment.
By the way, it's not very practical.


Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Brazilian Keratin
*$300.00 & Up
*Prices may vary according to hair length, and thickness.
Up Charges are based on extra time, perm and kits used
(includes shampoo, conditioner and style)



Oh, no, I'm not paying $300 and up!   I getting the mini-keriten, which is only $145! 
To have teenage hair!  Come on!
As L'Oréal says, "I'm worth it!"

My Before Photo

Stay tuned.



Saturday, June 8, 2019

Keep Your Chin Up

A year ago I  stopped doing what was my regular exercise routine.  My now neglected regular exercise routine consisted of participating in a one hour weight bearing, aerobics class, three times a week.  

Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 8:30 a.m., a group of about a dozen 60-80 year old women meet in the community club house to lift, march, dance, bend, stretch and mostly huff and puff for about 60 minutes.  The class is led by a 57 year old, very fit, very perky, energetic likable woman. 

Until a year ago, I diligently attended this class.  
I'm not sure why I stopped going.  It wasn't a gradual cutting back.  No, I just stopped going.
I came up with one excuse after another.  I blamed it on my aching hip or my chronic plantar fasciitis.  
     
I said it was more enjoyable to get up out of bed when I wanted to.  I loved spending the morning leisurely lounging around with my tea for as long as I desired.  Perhaps, I just ran out of steam.  
When I gave it careful consideration though,  I thought about the timing of when I stopped going.        
It was then that I realized it coincidently coincided with the passing of our little Maltese Rico.    
When that thought popped into my head, I brushed it away.  No, it couldn't be that. 
I mean I was sad to lose Rico after having him for nearly 18 years, but I didn't feel what I would describe as typically depressed.
But now, I realize that my self imposed cocoon hibernation was a form of grief.
     
Last week I went for an annual physical exam.   I wasn't surprised at my weight gain.  Leading the sedentary life style that I was now leading, of course there would be weight gain.   My blood pressure was a little elevated.  Again, not surprising.  
But what did surprise me, though, was the result of my bone density test.  It showed that I have Osteopenia.  

     "Osteopenia is when your bones are weaker than normal but not so far gone that they break easily, which is the hallmark of osteoporosis."

  
Having Osteopenia didn't surprise me, I've had it for years.  The astonishing thing about these latest results was that the Osteopenia has improved since my last bone density exam.  I suddenly understood that my aerobic, weight bearing exercise class was benefiting me much more than I realized.  

Because of our current circumstance (described in my last post "Did you ever have...") I am not available to attend the 8:30 aerobics classes.
    
Our community has a beautiful fitness center.   We also have a fitness trainer available in the community to help with one-on-one training.
I met with her last week for a one time, get me going session.
She helped me set up a routine, which I can easily manage.   
Ironically, unbeknownst to her, the best advice she gave me was more meaningful to me than just a physical benefit.   
As I was worked with the free weights, she told me to keep my chin up.  A couple of time she would reach over to tilt my chin upwards.   She told me that looking straight ahead with my chin up would help improve my posture. 

I realized that I do that often.  When I walk, I look down, not ahead.

Keeping my chin up is good advice, especially now, for more reasons than one.