Posts Tagged 'Ailments'

Cataracts, Light and Heat

I’m happy to report that my mother’s cataract surgery went very well last Wednesday! (Thanks to those of you who lifted her up in prayer for that.) Post operative treatment included three types of eye drops, each administered a different number of times per day… one four times a day, one three times a day and one two times a day. Since the three times a day drop cost nearly $80 for this teeny little bottle, and my mother had been told it held exactly the amount she would need, she had no ability to get it into her eye without wasting precious drops. In fact, at first she was afraid she’d not be able to get any drops into her eye. So I came over and did that.

Which turned out to be a lot more tiring and disruptive of my writing routine than I anticipated especially given that our temps last week had surged into the triple digits — 104, 105, 106 — even as the dew point soared from 30 something to 57 (It’s 64 tonight, which is very high for us) Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico had finally made it up here with a vengeance. And we still haven’t had a storm at our house (I have to specify “at our house” because people several streets over could well have experienced rain.) Instead it’s just been very hot and humid and our evaporative cooler, is not up to the task of bringing full relief.

I’ve always found it very tiring to run errands, though that seems an awfully insignificant thing to make one tired. Still, there’s something about getting into the car, driving, getting out, going into the store, coming out, getting into the car, driving… etc… that just leaves me blitzed. The garden tour which my mother and I used to take yearly, involved a lot of that, and by the end I could hardly wait to go home and lie down in a dark room, whereas my mother was wishing there were more gardens to visit. I felt like a total wimp!

In fact, when we came out of the surgical center, she fresh from cataract surgery, her pupil dilated as big as the hole in a piece of notebook paper, I was scrambling for my sunglasses whereas she was only reluctantly donning those flimsy sunglasses they give you at the eye doctor’s to slip behind your glasses. The next day she wore no sunglasses at all. And I’m squinting!

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the short jaunts to my mother’s last week to put in the drops did the same thing to me as the garden tour did. I’d leave my darkened house (open blinds let in way too much heat) and step out into BRIGHTNESS! POUNDING HEAT! Get into the car, where the heat is worse, though the light, at least, is dimmer. Turn on the ignition, the AC starts up and and I start moving. By the time the AC’s cooled me off, I have reached my destination. So I stop and get out and HOT! BRIGHT! I go into my mother’s house … cool, dim… ten minutes later I come out… etc. And those weren’t the only places I had to go.

After the second day of that toward the middle afternoon when I had done three such runs and was laying on the couch in the cooler’s breeze, wiped out and bereft of motivation while drinking a glass of ice water, I remembered something I’d read in one of those introvert books.

“Energy creation is the most salient difference between introverts and extroverts,”said Marti Olsen Laney in The Introvert Advantage, “but there are two other primary differences: their response to stimulation and their approach to knowledge and experience. Extroverts thrive on a variety of stimuli, whereas introverts can find it too much…” (pg 20)

“Introverted bodies seem to be particularly attuned to fluctuations in temperature and to the rhythms of light and dark,” she said, on page 265. “At the same time, because they may not sweat as easily as extroverts, innies don’t function well when they are overheated. Every body movement slows to a crawl and thinking grinds to a halt.”

Well that certainly described MY experience! LOL. It was cool to be able to recognize that I wasn’t making it up, and not to have to beat myself up for being so wasted by what seemed like nothing. Instead I gave myself permission to sit on that couch in the breeze from the cooler drinking the ice water until I felt like doing something else. Unfortunately that didn’t include writing any blog posts. Or working on Sky…but it was definitely a learning experience. But really, I’m starting to feel like a mole.

On the other hand… maybe that’s why I’ve set Sky in an underground city…

On to Cataract Surgery

Well, the bone scan last week did not indeed go as expected. At the end of the process, when all the technicians were at their stations and not visible to my mother, and they were asking her to wait and wait while they waited for the doctor to get out of a meeting… my mother decided to get up off the table they had her on and visit the ladies’ room.

She didn’t realize they had raised the table since she’d gotten onto it and so when attempting to get off, she fell and hit her head on the floor, raising a huge knot on her forehead. She didn’t lose consciousness or even see stars but the crew insisted upon putting her in a wheelchair and taking her down to Emergency. There they took an x-ray of her leg which she said had a place on it that hurt but that she could walk on with no problem. After a long time, the doctor arrived to talk to her and examine her and determine that she was okay and discharge her.

So that added a couple extra hours onto the whole proceeding which had already been delayed an hour at the start.

But this last Monday we learned the results of the scan and overall she’s doing well. They’re going to keep her on bone strengthening medicine and an infusion of what I call “chemo lite” once a month for I don’t know how long. Until they say otherwise, I guess. They also said we could go ahead and see about scheduling cataract surgery.

Which is what we did today. Almost a year from when we started the proceedings in 2009. Turns out she didn’t get the calcium deposits back on her eyes, as we’d both feared, and they don’t need to take any more measurements cause they have the one they took last summer. So we’re set for next Wednesday morning.

The ophthalmologist said, after examining her eyes, that she is at the moment legally blind. So we’re all in a hurry to get this going. For those of you inclined to pray, please ask that the surgery and the recovery both go well. She’s heard some scary weird stories about hardened cataracts, infections, allergic reactions, and lots of recovery problems seeing… After all that’s happened it would be very nice if this could just go as smoothly as they say it usually does.

And since I haven’t had to be driving down to the cancer center every day, I’ve actually begun to see some progress on Sky. I’m working through the Prologue and have done more the last week and a half than for a very long time. Hooray!

A Dog Who Crosses His Legs

Well, I did ten more pages today, not writing from scratch but working through a sort of dump document, where I took elements from several different drafts of the Prologue (as in, entirely different scenarios) and cobbled them together with only the vaguest consideration of how the pieces might fit together. Now I’m going through and giving it all much closer consideration. It’s kind of slow going and… after all the problems I have with my hands already, can you believe that last night, just after I started working I started developing a pain on the outer edge of my right wrist?  Hmph. I’ve never had that pain before.

Another distraction. Too bad. I have a wrist brace. And Advil.

And since this is another very brief post I will show a picture of Quigley. He cracks me up the way when we go out into the yard in the morning, and I’m hanging out the clothes, he’ll do a round of the premises, then plop himself down in the grass not far from me and immediately cross his front legs. Almost always. Thus:

End of Cycle Six

Well, it turns out I did get home with a reasonable amount of time after my mother’s cancer treatments, but then I had to deal with… insurance issues. Like, “Once you’ve reached your out-of-pocket maximum, do you have to pay the copays for doctor’s visits?” I have called the health insurance company, pored over the insurance information and documentation, went online to look at evidence of coverage and am STILL not sure.

Originally the insurance agent told me that my mother would not have to pay anything, including copays once she reached the out-of-pocket limit. But then she got a bill for doctor’s visit copays after she’d reached her yearly cap (which happened after only one month of her chemotherapy regimen; it’s that expensive!). So I called the insurance company direct and was told that doctor’s copays are not applied toward the out-of-pocket limit and she would have to pay the bill and any subsequent copays. Okay.

So we went in today and told the receptionist that we were mistaken and my mother was supposed to pay the doctor visit copays even though she’d already reached the cap. The receptionist thought that was weird and suggested I talk to the Oncology center’s financial advisor. The financial advisor also thought that was weird; in fact she’d never heard of such a thing and asked me to bring in the EOB (Explanation of Benefits) for what she thought were the doctor visit copays my mother had been billed for. 

But the dates she gave us were after the ones on the bill…

I am utterly bemused by the lack of clarity in the language used in the Summary of Benefits. Under “Important information” it says:

$XYZ out-of-pocket limit.

There is no limit on cost sharing for the following services:

Medicare services:

  • Doctor office visits
  • Chiropractic Services
  • …etc…

So… From this I gather that “no limit on cost sharing” means that you must continue to share the cost without limits. Which means doctor visit copays do not apply to the oopl and you do indeed need to keep paying the doctor office copays…

Later on in the charts, they list items that are included in the out-of-pocket cap. “Doctor office visits” is not on the list but “physical exam” is. When you look at  “Physical exams” it says there is no copay for a routine exam, of which you may receive only one per year. Why list physical exams under what can be applied to the oopl if you don’t have to pay a copay for them? In “Physician Services,” they tell you all the rates of copays for various types of doctors.  But in many of the other categories, after they tell you the various copays they state, “you will pay these amounts until you reach your out-of-pocket limit.”

By which I deduce, again, that you must continue to pay doctor’s copays or they would have said “you will pay these amounts until you reach your out-of-pocket limit,” after the listings of the various doctor types of copays…

Are they being deliberately obtuse or is it just me?

On a brighter note, my mother is doing very well with her treatments. Today was the last full treatment and the end of the sixth cycle. She looks good, she’s feeling well, her pain is vastly reduced, and her appetite has returned. We now wait three weeks during which she’ll get a bone scan. Then we’ll go back for “maintenance” treatments with the chemo-lite drug that supposedly has no side effects… At least that’s his plan now. We won’t know for sure until the scan comes back and we see him again. But for now it looks like we might have a three-week break.

I say might because the one thing I’ve learned in all this is… you never know what a day might bring.

Another Speck

Some of you may recall that two years ago in April, when Quigley was about 4 months old, he had a speck blown into his eye that required eye surgery and two weeks of recovery wearing an e-collar. (Which disintegrated the morning of the last day he had to wear it.)

Well, it’s April again, and it has been very, very windy. Sunday Stu and I were discussing whether the way Quigley was sort of closing his left eye while he watched us eat, and pretended to doze, meant anything. Monday evening, as I was preparing to go out for our walk, the light was just right as Quig came up to me and I saw a bump on his cornea with a little blood vessel-looking thing snaking out to it. Later, Stu examined him with a strong light and said it looked like some sort of reddish covering.

So this morning I called the Vet Specialists, with visions of surgery, a two-week recovery, and an e-collar dancing in my head. I took him in at 9:15 and… as usual, my speculations were wrong. I don’t know why I bother with speculations. They are ALWAYS wrong. Anyway, I sat in a chair in the corner of the examining room and held him with the help of two veterinary technicians while the doctor numbed his cornea, turned out the lights and examined his eyes. Quig was pretty good about letting her do it, too. Eventually she determined that the speck of plant matter had probably been in there for over ten days. Thankfully it had not penetrated his cornea and she was able to brush it away with one of those little paper spears. After the administration of a few more drops and a treat for Quigley, we were on our way.

We brought home a bag of three different types of eye-drops that we’re to continue administering multiple times a day. After he got home, before the numbing wore off, I went out and bought a new e-collar in case he started rubbing his eye later on when the numbness wore off. Well, day’s end is here and he’s not rubbed it once that I’ve seen.

I love it. Nothing is ever what I expect it to be, it seems. And God knows that so well. Forget about expectations, He seems to be saying to me. And just trust me for however it’s going to turn out.

Wandering through the Day

Thanks to all my readers for your prayers and words of encouragement regarding the situation with my mother. I appreciate it.

Yesterday (Monday) turned out to be another day at the Cancer Center. I called first thing that morning and was directed to leave a voice mail with the scheduler for my mother’s doctor.  When I still hadn’t heard back after an hour and a half, I called again, was directed again to the voice mail, hung up, called again, asked if I could talk to the nurse, was put on hold, then told that the scheduler had sent back a message to them and they would call me back. Okay. I reminded myself that the Lord had it all under control and there was no need for me to hover around the phone — He could see that my presence and the call could coincide. So I went out and hung out laundry.

I was about to take a shower when the scheduler called and asked if we could come in at noon. So that’s what we did. The doctor did not know why my mother has the back pain, nor could he explain the sore throat, which was hyper red, something that usually presented with a viral infection, except she has no fever. He didn’t think last week’s shot would still be affecting her in that way, and suspected that “tincture of time” would likely be her best cure. He did switch her pain medication to something that wouldn’t make her sick to her stomach. And they gave her a bag of saline solution because she was dehydrated. We were there all afternoon.  I was not really all that surprised that it was nothing I had thought it might be or even that I could have thought it might be.  Given the weird inexplicable ailments that have befallen me and my dogs, why be surprised when my mother has them as well?

I finished up the day walking Quigley, doing Bible class, eating dinner and watching 24. By then I was too tired to anything for the blog. Today I slept in and though I tried to take a couple of hours working on Sky, I don’t think I had the mental/emotional energy because I only did it for an hour and then went off to get my free coffee and not-free scone at Starbucks (the bags I buy in the store have little “get a free coffee” emblem on them, and I’ve been taking advantage of it. I’m good for any excuse to go and get one of their scones. Today it was Maple Oat Pecan. Mmmmm). I never went back to Sky, but putzed around with cards, my journal, housework, a bit of organizing, some Internet reading and a couple more errands and before I knew it the day was gone.

But I will not condemn myself for “getting nothing done” because, well, that’s not even true. I did get stuff done. I just didn’t do it in the normal orderly manner. I just wandered through my day, kinda like Quigley would wander about the neighborhood from scent to scent if he were let free to so do. Is that such a bad thing? I’m beginning to think maybe it isn’t. Definitely a subject for thought.

Live in His Rest

It’s been a challenging week, and the challenges look like they’re going to run through the weekend into Monday.

Last Monday my mother received her third treatment in the four-week cycle her doctor has devised for her. On Tuesday she received a shot to increase the white blood cells the treatment had depressed. That was all regular and expected. After that we thought we were to have a two-week rest from doctor’s appointments, chemo treatments, etc.

But on Wednesday she developed a severe back spasm in allergic reaction to the shot. I called the doctor who prescribed one Benadryl and two tablets of Vicodin every four hours. My mother, of course, didn’t want to take any of them, certainly not over a period of time, though she did. Not sure how clear her mind would be (recalling how unclear mine was when I’d taken Vicodin for my broken arm) I went over every 4 hours during the days to make sure she was doing okay and to see that the proper drugs were taken in the proper amounts at the proper times.

When it wasn’t better Friday I called again and spoke to the nurse who said the symptoms should abate over the weekend, since they rarely lasted longer than three or four days. She  added that I should have my mother take two Benadryl and two Vicodin every four hours over the weekend. Despite my telling my mother this — multiple times over the weekend — she kept thinking she was only to take one of each, so if left to herself, that was what she did. And then complained the meds weren’t doing any good. She also kept forgetting to eat when she took the Vicodin and so got an upset stomach.

Things were beginning to improve ever so slightly Saturday night. Then this morning she awoke with a “terrible sore throat”. So I checked the chemo-drug information which told me to contact the doctor as soon as possible. I called the Oncology center and talked to the on call physician who told me to go look for white spots in her throat and if there were he’d call in an anti-yeast medication for her. So I looked. Hmmm. There were whitish areas, but they weren’t spots. Didn’t even look like “patches.” Certainly not like cottage cheese or “lesions,” as the internet articles described.

Having no real idea what I was looking for, I didn’t call him back. He said if it wasn’t better in the morning, we were to call the center again and she’d have to come in. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed he implied that the sore throat might also be a side effect of the shot. On the other hand, thrush is apparently common in those with cancer and when one has dry mouth and she has had a very dry mouth ever since taking the Benadryl. So… I have no idea.

This morning was particularly difficult and afterward I had to remind myself that I am not responsible for this. I did not cause it, I do not have the ability to make it go away, I don’t have the training to know what’s going on, I’m not a nurse, so it’s absurd to expect myself to do all this correctly. To think I have a clue.

Then less than two hours later in Bible Class, Pastor once again spoke directly to me (though unknowingly, of course). The lesson was on living in the peace and rest that should be ours thanks to having been reconciled to God. Thanks to the fact that God’s got everything under control and has already done all the work.  He even spoke about medical things, just an offhand comment/illustration, but my goodness — exactly to my situation:

“One of the greatest problems we have is living in fear, worry and anxiety. Those things take away our rest. In fact, I found that I have felt the best these last few months when I decided to give up worrying about medical stuff: Did I eat the proper food? Take my medication? Am I doing the right thing? Should I even put this stuff in my body?”

That’s a quote from my notes which paraphrase to some degree, but boy was I excited. Exactly the things I’ve been dealing with in regard to my mother. Why is it so hard to remember… I don’t have to take control. I don’t have to solve the problem. It’s God’s problem.  He knows exactly what’s going on, what is causing what, what He wants to happen and all the rest. I’m just a stupid sheep. Why would I even think that I could know all that, and more, that God would demand such a thing of me in order to solve the problem? No. He demands that I let Him solve the problem and I just can’t quite let go and do that. It seems right, it’s almost compulsive this insistance I have on trying to fix things…. How stupid. How… crazy.

But that’s the flesh: sick, unsound, deceitful…

I only have to stay in fellowship and if I’m not at rest, I’m not in fellowship. More than that, rest connotes confidence, so if I’m not at rest I’m not confident. In fact I’m disobeying God’s word, which says the only thing I’m to fear is not being at rest. He’s commanded me to STOP WORRYING AND TRUST HIM.

And really, that is not hard. You just do

So. I may not be home for a good part of tomorrow. Then again, I might. But seeing as I’ve  already fallen out of the habit of get up at 7 and work til 9 on Sky, I think tomorrow I’ll shoot for doing at least an hour and a half of that before tackling the throat issue.

Living in the rest and peace that comes from understanding that you have been reconciled to God.
Romans 9-11 series: 2112-458
Taught on Jan 24, 2010


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