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.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Did You Ever Have One Of Those Days?

Did you ever have one of those days?

I'm writing this on Saturday, June 1. 

Part One
On Thursday as I was going about, doing my usual morning routine of making the bed, throwing some laundry in, etc, I suddenly saw a flash of light out of the corner of my right eye.  It literally looked like a streak of lightening.  That was weird, I thought.
A couple of seconds later, I began to see these black string like things in my line of vision.
Thinking I had something hanging from my hair, I kept brushing my hand across my face. 
I looked in the mirror, I didn't see anything, but the stringy things were still there. 
Okay, there must be something in my eye.  A piece of dust or something.   
I asked Ross to take a look.  "Nope," he said.  "I don't see anything."
After a few minutes the stringy things subsided.  I still had one, though hanging out in the corner of my eye.
I chalked it up to stress, not sleeping well the night before and feeling more tired than usual that day.
We went about the business of the day.
When we were settled in after dinner, for the heck of it I decided to look up my symptoms on the internet.
I googled "eye problems". 

I came across this article from "WebMd" which fit my symptoms exactly:

Detached Retina

What Are the Symptoms?

A detached retina doesn't hurt. It can happen with no warning at all. But you might notice:
  • Flashes of light
  • Seeing lots of new "floaters" (small flecks or threads)
  • Darkening of your peripheral (side) vision
If you have any of those symptoms, contact your eye doctor immediately.

That last sentence sent me into a panic.   Contacting my eye doctor immediately was not an option at 7:00 p.m.  I did actually try to call.  The message on the answering machine told me to call 911 if it was an emergency.  The office would be open at 8:15 a.m. the next day, Friday.
At 8:15 on Friday morning, I talked to my eye doctor's receptionist and explained my symptoms.  She asked if I could get there right then because the doctor was only going to be in the office until 10:30.  First of all, the doctor's office is 30 minutes from our home.  Second of all,  Ross has his radiation scheduled for 10:00.  It seemed more important to me to make sure Ross got his treatment.  
I asked the receptionist if she thought I could wait until Monday to see the doctor.  She told me that actually the doctor doesn't deal with retina problems and would just refer me to a retina specialist. 
So, let me digress for a moment and reflect on that.   Why did the receptionist ask me to try to come into the office when she knew the doctor would not have been able to treat me?  I'm glad I didn't attempt to make that trip.
Okay so back to the story.   I called and made an appointment with a retina specialist for 2:00.  As I was scheduling the appointment, I asked the receptionist if it was necessary to see someone immediately.  She said, "I would suggest that you do."
That threw me into full anxiety mode.   Cause that's what I do. 
But, before my eye doctor appointment we had to go to Ross' radiation session at 10:00.  
Part Two
We headed to the radiation center at our usual time.   Traffic was light.  We were making good time.  In fact we were probably going to be a little early.   
The radiation center is on the east side of the highway on which we  travel.   But we first begin our travel on the west side of that highway.  Therefore, once we get to the location of the Radiation center,  we have to make a jughandle u-turn to get onto the east side.  
As we approached the traffic light where the jughandle is located, we discovered the traffic light was not working.  This is normally a busy intersection and it was this day.  With the traffic light not working, it was chaos!  Cars going in all directions, drivers not knowing when to stop and when to go.    
While we were in the middle of the round-about, cars were coming from all directions. We were all trying to merge and get into one of the three appropriate turn lanes.  As Ross was inching over to the center lane, I heard the crunch. 
My immediate reaction was "Oh, no!"  I threw my hands up and covered my face.  I asked Ross if he knew who hit us.  He said he did.  "It was that black car.  She's behind us screaming at me."
I told him to keep moving.  There was no way we could stop in the middle of all the traffic.  '"She'll follow us," I said.
We managed to get out of the jughandle,  and we turned into the parking lot of the Radiation center. The woman in the black car followed us.  We pulled into a parking spot.  She pulled in next to us.  She rolled down her window and continued screaming at us.
"Are you freaking kidding me!"  "You hit my car!"  "You hit my car!"
She was driving a large black Infinity SUV.  Sort of like this:

We drive a four door sedan.  Sort of like this:



I rolled down my window. and said, "Sorry, but we have an appointment there," pointing to the building with the sign which clearly states, "Radiation Onconology". 

She sort of sputtered, and I could see the humanity in her began to take over to tame the shrew.  
Ross, in a his typical way, very calmly and in a soft voice said to her, "There's no need to yell."
I chimed in with, "Cars can be fixed."
As an aside here, based on the damage to both cars, she had damage to the headlight on the driver's side.  We had damage all along the side of our car on the driver's side.  I do believe she hit us. 
But, since the damage was of only a scraping type, there was no jolt to either car, which means none of us experienced any kind of physical injury,  Ross and I were not going to argue with her about who hit who.
As we waited for the police to arrive, I noticed that people were hanging outside the building.  I told Ross he should go in to check in.  When he came out he said the electricity was out.  That meant that the radiation machines were not working. 
By this time Lynn, that was the screaming woman's name, had completely calmed down and began to apologize to us.   
She said that she doesn't normally act that way, but she had a lot of errands to run that day.  And she was going to be late for a lunch date she had with her sister.   
<sigh> Poor woman.  (sarcastically).
The police officer was quite understanding.  He wrote up the police accident report and didn't issue any tickets.
After the officer left, Lynn asked if she could give us a hug.   
By the way, I did happen to mention my upcoming appointment with the eye doctor because I probably had a detached retina. 
By the time it was all over, I kind of felt sorry for her.  She must have felt awful at the way she screamed  at this white haired couple, he with cancer, she with a detached retina. 
We went back into the center.  The electricity had just came back on, but now they were backed up with their own traffic jam of patients.  They told us we could wait, it would probably be an hour.  They said we could skip this session and it would just be tacked on to the end.  In other words Ross will still be receiving all 45 treatments. 
We decided we needed to leave, go home and relax a bit before my eye apportionment.

Part Three 
I going to be brief here.  I do not have a detached retina.  But what I do have is:
Vitreous Degeneration
What is the treatment for vitreous degeneration? In most cases, vitreous degeneration does not affect eyesight, but certainly may be annoying. There is no good treatment for removing the floaters. Surgery to remove the vitreous gel from the eye is reserved for more serious problems, like a detached retina. That is because the surgery can have complications. We recommend that people try to learn to see around their floaters. The floaters usually settle to the bottom of the eye like the snow in a snow-globe and stop being as bothersome as time passes. The brain also gets tired of looking at a floater all of the time and starts to ignore it. You will always be able to see the floater again if you concentrate on it, or if you are looking into the sky or another very light background. 

It's something to keep a check on.  

The moral to this story is... well I know what I learned.  How about you?




Saturday, May 25, 2019

Wearable Art, Radiation and Maury Povich

A week of radiation treatments are under Ross' belt. The treatment itself only takes about 11-15 minutes. 
Ross is physically feeling okay so far with it. 
I believe the stress he and I are experiencing comes not from the actual treatment, but rather from what the treatment is hopefully curing. 

I am amused by the TV channel selections in the waiting room.  The remote is fair game.   Each day this week the TV was tuned to a different station.  It was quite an eclectic array, ranging from Cable News to Maury Povich.   By the way, "Rob by a DNA score of 99.9%, YOU ARE THE FATHER!"

I bring my knitting with me and although the waiting time is not long, I still manage to get in a few rows on whatever project I happen to bring with me.   As always, the rhythmic process of stitching with string and sticks help with the stress. 

The other day I decided to go through all of my completed knitting projects.  I have them tucked here and there in various dressers drawers or on shelves stored in decorative storage boxes. 

When they were all in one place, all together, I began to question why?  How many pairs of socks do I need?  What about all of those shawls?  Why?  Don't get me started the amount of hats, scarves and cowls.

 The more I pondered the "why" of my kitting obsession,  I began to understand the answer,

I often talk about the soothing and calming feeling that knitting produces, but there is another just as compelling reason I knit.

It also satisfies my creative need.   As I looked at all of the items,  I realized I was admiring 
individual pieces of art. 

Although most of the items I make are created using a pattern written by someone else,  I chose the colors. 
I like the way color choice brings my own individuality to a project.   







It's sort of like coloring in one of those "adult" coloring books.  The picture is drawn by someone else, but you get to choose the colors.
However,  unlike the coloring book, my art is wearable.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Forty-Five Minutes Closer

Finally!  Finally!  Ross starts his radiation treatments on Monday, May 20th. 

His radiation schedule was set for 9:30 a.m. Monday-Friday,  for all of the 45 treatments.   We got a call on Thursday from the woman in charge of scheduling appointments to let us know that they had to change the time of the appointment from 9:30 to 10:15.

I am a little bothered by the reason for the time change.  The radiation center is replacing one of their machines.  So they are down to only one machine. 
"Hopefully, the new machine will be online soon," said the scheduling setting lady.

Ross was diagnosed with Prostate cancer on January 31.  Part of his treatment is a medication that he has had to take daily for the last 3 months before he can start radiation. 
While we logically understand medication is part of the treatment, psychologically and emotionally it feels like radiation is the "real" treatment. 

While a forty-five minute time change may not seem to be significant,  for us it "feels" that we've been waiting to start the "real" treatment to begin since the end of January. 

So for the scheduling lady, the nurses, the doctors, and the technicians who work at the center I'm sure a forty-five minute delay for a cancer patient to get his first radiation treatment is insignificant, but for us it represents "FORTY-FIVE MINUTES" closer to Ross getting well. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Secret Shawl Society Four

One of the knit pattern designers I love is "Helen Stewart".  Her patterns are well written with clear instructions.
I believe she has trademarked her method of pattern writing.

Included with each of her patterns is a row by row check off sheet.

It looks something like this,
When working on a complex pattern which contain many rows, with different sets of design stitches across each row, it is helpful for the knitter to have a checkoff sheet to keep track of progress and to have a place keeper for where you are in the pattern.  It's also beneficial to know how many stitches you should wind up with at the end of row.
Many designers do not do that.

Helen makes sure she keeps her customers engaged by coming out with groups of patterns a few times a year.  She encourages her followers to join in and knit a pattern together as a group.

One of her signature pattern groups is something she calls "The Secret Shawl Society". (or TSSS)  This is the fourth year for TSSS and the second time I am participating.
When you join in, you basically pre-order a set of six shawl patterns.   The patterns are released one at a time during the next six months.

The first pattern of the TSSS4 was released today.   It is called "Sea Gleam".  Here is Helen wearing hers:



I am going to start on this one today.  The yarn I have chosen is by the "indie" yarn dyer "Shirsty Cat Designs"


When the shawl is finished I will have 427 stitches on my needles.  If you are not a knitter, I'll just tell you that is a LOT of stitches!

I have one other knitting project going at the moment.  It's a pair of socks for Ross.  I have the first one done and the second one is on the needles.   I'll probably go back and forth now between the "Sea Gleam" and Ross' sock. 

Socks For Ross

Perhaps I will document my progress with a weekly status update.

Well, on with my day!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mother's Day - A Nice Day Indeed

Mother's Day 2019

Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, family vacations and the like are times when we gather together to celebrate our connections. 

In a recent post, Debbie, from "My Morning Cup of Coffee" captured my feelings so well about these times:    "You never really get over losing a child but if you want to have a good life, you must have a place for your grief to go. I bring it out, on anniversary days, holidays, etc. (sometimes)

They are the times when we send and receive messages of "thoughts and prayers".  It's as if these are the days when it's acceptable to acknowledge our grief.

For me, like Debbie,  the grief is always there, but "it's put away" on "normal" days.  It's true what "they" say.  Life goes on.

Mother's Day in particular is a tricky one to navigate.   It's likely filled with ranges of emotions for a great many people. 

I noticed it on Facebook and Instagram posts.  Along with the day's pictures of mom and her favorite child 😉 captioned with messages to "the best mom in the world", there were also many photos of moms and grandmothers who have passed on.   Lots of all inclusive well wishes for moms, stepmoms, "like a mother to me" moms and fur-baby moms. 

In the quiet time of the morning, I thought about Joe.  I imagined him smiling as he walked through the door with Anne and Domani, and perhaps another little one. 

And then it was time to begin to get ready for Jen, Derek, Bella, Ryan and Jackson's visit. 
Distracted by the busy-ness of the hustle and bustle of getting the house straightened and the table set, I "put my grief away".

What a wonderful visit we had.  The grandkids walked in each holding flowers and cards, followed with hugs and "Happy Mother's day greetings. 

The food was delicious, especially since I let "Naples Italian Restaurant" do the cooking. 😋


I smiled a lot, giggled at Jackson's antics and laughed at Bella's spot on imitation of the way her father always laments that he ate too much.

Jackson, who is 5, fancies himself to be a future YouTube star.  I made a "produced" video for him, emceed by his brother Ryan and starring himself.   I hear he liked it. 😉

My son Jimmy called to wish me "Happy Mother's Day".  He called from England where he was on a trip attending a fitness expo. 

Anne, Domani and I shared Mother's Day via Facetime. 

And how lucky am I to be Joe's Ma'. 

It was a nice day, a nice day indeed. 




Thursday, May 9, 2019

Hope Comes to Those Who Wait

Yesterday was the set-up prep day for Ross' radiation treatments.  We have both been anxious to get started with this.
Our appointment was scheduled for 9:00.am  I don't think Ross slept much the night before.  He unnecessarily had his alarm set.  We were both awake by 5:00.
The radiation center is about 25 miles from where we live.  The route is heavily trafficked.  So, even though GPS said it would take 27 minutes to get there, we left at 8:00.
The GPS wasn't too far off.  We arrived at 8:30.
For me, waiting in any medical type facility is stressful and makes me anxious. 



There is something about being in a place where "cancer" is the host.   It stands at the entrance watching for you.  It accompanies you in with its heavy hand on your shoulder.   It hovers over the room observing each of us to see which one it will descend upon, picking the most vulnerable to its ugly whispers of doubt. 

While Ross checks in with reception, I settle in, claiming my spot in the corner, knitting in my lap,  I begin to glance around the room. 
My eyes rest on the other couple across the way, waiting their turn to do battle.  I could tell he is the one cancer has chosen.  He looks tired.  She has her arm around him, rubbing his back. She says something to him which makes them both smile.  

A large bald man enters the room and hurriedly strides up to the desk to check in.  It seems as though this is just a brief stop for him before he is on the way to do important stuff.   It's a mere gnat of an imposition he has to brush away before he begins the real business of his day.   He takes his seat in the back of the room, pulls out his phone and busily scrolls through his, what I assume to be, appointments. 

Ross says something to me, I turn to him.  "What was that?" I ask.  He hands me his coffee mug and follows the nurse through the door.  

I look at my watch, it's 9:11.   The TV is loud.  No one seems to be watching.  

An elderly Asian man and his son come into the room.  He finds a seat for his father and then checks in at the reception window.  He is handed a stack of papers.  He sits next to his father to help fill them out.   I can slightly hear their voices.  They are speaking their native language. 

Ebbing and flowing, the room fills and empties.  Most who enter, look neither right or left but are solely focused on the check in window and which seat they will choose.  
Those who are there alone are looking at their phones.  Others who are in pairs are sitting quietly, now and then speaking in hushed tones to each other. 

As I look around the room,  I begin to notice something.  I've experienced this feeling before on each of the too many times I've been here.   It is the inspiring sense of hope in the room which is palpable.  It permeates the air with a sweet scent. 

Cancer may have greeted these people at the door, greedily waiting to feed on their fears but when they leave that "cancer" room they are standing taller, having had one more treatment towards kicking cancer out of their lives.  And, almost always, when they leave for the day, they catch the eye of one who is still waiting.  With a little wave, they nod and smile as if to say, you, we, are going to be okay. 

I pick up my knitting.  A sock.  Knit 30 stitches, come to the end.  Turn.  Knit 30 stitches, come to the end.  Turn.  Repeat this mantra until numb.




Ross starts his real treatments on May 20.  Five days a week for 9 weeks.  We are going to be okay.