Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year In Review

2010 will go down in my mind as the most challenging year of my 34 years.  And I'm still shiny-side up.

The first few months of the year were riddled with pain, headaches and monthly calls to Dr. Gentili waiting for my surgery date.  I'm happy to report the pain of the first months of the year is behind me because of my June decompression surgery.

In February we celebrated my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary.  Theirs is a love from which I try to model my own marriage.  They didn't want any big celebration, just cake and coffee with the family.  I ordered letters and certificates of congratulation from Queen Elizabeth II, the Prime Minister, the Governor General, the Premier, and the Mayor of our city.  I was so proud to say I have grandparents who were married for 60 years.  It is a remarkable achievement. 

My grandma's health began to fail shortly after her 83rd birthday in April.  She was admitted to hospital and we knew it was very touch and go.  In true grandma fashion, she surprised us and started to get better and was moved to the rehab hospital.  She had been given a discharge date.  And then her tired heart gave it's last beat.  And it broke my heart.  It broke everyone's heart in my family.  And not a day goes by when I don't think of her a dozen times.  And at least once or twice those memories are coupled with tears.

A few days after my grandma passed away I received a phone call from Dr. Gentili's office with my decompression surgery date - June 22, 2010.  I won't reiterate the whole story.  It's here  and here.  It was the scariest thing I've ever had to face.  Worse than public speaking in grade school, the first day of high school, even traveling across the ocean to live in Italy.  I was petrified, but I was calm, prepared and anxious to feel better.  And I do.  If I had to do it all again, I would.  The difference it has made in my life is amazing, and I'm just 6 months post-op.  With 2 years to fully recover, I can only hope that I continue to feel this good.

The months after my surgery were long and very lonesome.  I did a lot of walking and a lot of physio at home.  I rested when I needed to.  I did what I could.  With the help of my dear husband I made it through.  I still struggle with my nerve issues in my right arm, but I will head to back Toronto Western on January 28th, 2011 for a nerve conductive study.  And that will hopefully provide a prognosis or at least a firm diagnosis.

November and December were good months, preparing for Christmas and craft shows and returning to work.  I kept busy with crafts as much as I could, a little at a time.  I did two successful craft shows and 1 trip to sell crafts at my mother-in-law's old office.  I'm very happy with the craft season this year.  As I was off work or only working 3 hours a day I had extra opportunity to bake, write Christmas cards, and get ready for the holidays.  I have never been a Christmas person, but this year I was actually in the spirit.  I wanted to get the tree up.  I was finished my shopping and wrapping early.  And I baked enough goodies for a small army.  And on the actual days I wasn't sick, exhausted or miserable.  I was fortunate to not get a headache or flu or cold.  (Well, I did end up with a bit of a cold on December 27th, but it wasn't on the holiday for a change!)

I'm very happy looking back at this year with all of it's trials and struggles.  I can say I'm still shiny-side up after all of it.  And that's what matters most.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ten on Tuesday - Christmas

1.  This was the first Christmas without my grandma.  I only started to cry half a dozen times....

2.  Christmas morning started for us at 2:57am.  The phone rang and hubby went into work for a few hours.  He was home by 8 and we had breakfast and opened presents.

3.  Hubby spoiled me.  He always does.  I got a Swarovski crystal Eeyore.  He had to order it.  1 of 10 left in Canada.  Very nice, and very unexpected.  And loads of chocolate... I have shares in Lindt.

4.  Dinner number one...  Mother-in-law's with between 13 and 23 people... it was crowded and wonderful. Although a little loud... my ears were ringing.  But it is only because I'm not used to the noise yet.

5.  Dinner number two... My papa's with 14, including two of my three cousins from out of town.  It wasn't the same, grandma absence was on all of our minds.  We enjoyed fantastic food and great company, but at times we were all quiet... missing the figurehead of our family.

6.  Spoiled.  Rotten.  Family overdid themselves once again.  I have the choice of a new aquarium from my hubby and mother-in-law.  And more chocolate than I could ever imagine.  I put 6 boxes in the freezer... there are at least 4 in the closet where we keep the treats!  (I'm a closet chocoholic!)

7.  Boxing day we DID NOT go shopping.  But we did go out 27th shopping.  No crowds.  No lines.  And the only size small lavender wool jacket at Old Navy for 70% off!  LOVE!!!!  I saw it Christmas Eve when I rushed in for a last minute gift for my nephew.   The clerk told me about the Boxing Day sale and I figured it wouldn't be there on the 27th, but lucky me, it was!!

8.  Food.... so much food....  And baking.... And pies....  And chocolate.  I even made it over my normal 1,300 calorie count for Christmas and Boxing Day!

9.  I'm already thinking about next year... what to make for whom... ideas run through my head all year.  Thinking of cookie mixes in the canning jars, homemade calendars, a new style of Christmas ornament... Have to keep myself busy!

10.  No plans for New Year's.  We never really ring in the year... usually in bed well before the clock hits 12:00.

(Okay... pretty sappy Ten on Tuesday... but there's 10!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ten On Tuesdays Challenge

Challenged by a fellow blogger... I'm taking my first crack at Ten on Tuesdays...  So, I'm going to post about the holiday season.

1.  I love when it snows at Christmas.  It's snowing tonight, so just a couple days early.  I love when everything is clean and fresh under a new blanket of snow.

2.  Christmas is ENTIRELY too commercial.  Who needs slippers with headlights (yes, saw the flyer for them!), or the no battery flashlight you shake - never mind, who wants them??  They will end up in a Good Will box, in the return aisle at the store, or in a long forgotten corner of the basement or attic.

3.  I wish we had a real Christmas tree.  But seriously can't make my way to the bush to find one.  Need a team of elves to help with that one.  Can't see the hubby liking that one much either... he usually doesn't want to help with the artificial tree... but this year he did!

4.  I hope that my family and friends enjoy the gifts I'm giving this year.  I'm always worried about disappointing someone, or not giving enough, or "keeping up with the Jones'".  Not this year.  Limits were set and I stuck to them.  I even stopped myself when I said, hey, I should buy that for so-and-so... Nope.  Didn't.  Yeah me!

5.  (You're right Marla, this is difficult!)  My favourite holiday movie is White Christmas.  Yes, I know it came out in 1954, but I could care less.  I love Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.  I've read somewhere that Vera Lynn's waist was like 18" in that movie... and yes, sadly, she had an eating disorder.  But I could care less about their real lives... I love the music, the movie, the costumes.  My favourite song is "Snow" as they ride the train to Vermont.

6.  I used to dread Christmas morning... Dysfunctional family issues.  I'm so much happier about Christmas than I ever was as a child / teen / young adult.  And that makes me happy.

7.  We don't have any specific Christmas traditions.  We don't attend church.  We don't open a gift on Christmas Eve (anymore, did as kids). 

8.  We love food at Christmas, just like everyone else.  I love our Finnish and German foods that are always on the table or dessert tray.  It wouldn't be Christmas without them.  So I guess I was wrong in #7, we do have tradition, traditional food!

9.  This Christmas I didn't ask for much.  I don't need much.  And I don't want much.  I need a new tank for my aquarium.  A few stocking stuffers.  Neither of my favourite authors have a new book out, so that was easy.  Yep.  Pretty basic this year.  Besides.  I don't need anything really.  I have a roof over my head.  I have food on my table.  I have a job.  I have a dear husband and wonderful family.  I have enough.

10.  Last Christmas morning I was on my own for the first time ever.  My hubby had to work.  I did laundry, cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed.  Yep, huge celebration at our house :P

There, made it through my first Ten on Tuesdays!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back to Toronto

Because the nerve issues in my right arm are ongoing, I've plateaued in my recovery, and I'm still experiencing lots of nerve pain, my family doctor referred me back to Dr. Gentili on the recommendation from my orthopaedic surgeon.  And within a week of Dr. G's office receiving the referral, I have an appointment for an EMG (electromyogram) on January 28th at Toronto Western Hospital.  Wow!! 
I'm just so happy I'm being looked at and it's not going to take 6+ months to be seen!  We haven't yet decided if we will go down the night before or just for a day trip again. Flying to Toronto in January can be a little dodgy if there's a snow storm.  And I was forewarned by Dr. G's receptionist not to be late.  The doctor performing the test hates when his patients are late.  I'm not a late person, I panic if I'm there only 5 minutes early... but snow can wreak havoc on travel plans!
My return to work is coming along slowly, but it is coming along.  I start doing something I haven't done in 6 months and all of a sudden it's done and I'm not really sure how I completed it, but it is done.  I'm still a bit overwhelmed, some of the files that I thought would have been completed during my absence are still ongoing, and others have closed that I thought would be still around.  And just getting used to the new stuff... a whole new computer system with Windows 7 - and I'm a Mac user at home - and a number of changes to the programs and software... And soon, a new keyboard with a track pad so I can ditch the thumb-ball mouse I've been using since my last shoulder surgery in 2003.  So my learning curve will just have to curve a little deeper for a while longer... The young lady who was filling in for me is still helping out on a few files, but she will be finished with the firm on December 30th... Does panic set in now??? I'm still only working 15 hours a week... How am I going to do a full day's work in 3 hours???  I can't think about it or I'll start to have panic attacks...
I'm going to focus on planning our trip back to Toronto and getting my nerves working.  The rest is out of my control.

And just to brag a little... The tree is trimmed, the lights are hung in the windows, the presents are wrapped and sit beneath the tree.  The baking is in the freezer and I have all the ingredients I need for Christmas dinner...  And I have the next 6 days before Christmas to relax!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Twelve Days of Chiari

(Okay, I'm not a poet... but here goes... to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas...  And no, it doesn't have quite the significance the song has but here goes...)

On the first trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the second trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me two cognitive tests, and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the third trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the fourth trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the fifth trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the sixth trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me six new symptoms, five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the seventh trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me seven times four surgical staples, six new symptoms, five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the eighth trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me pictures of my eight millimeter herniation, seven times four surgical staples, six new symptoms, five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On my ninth trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me nine new prescriptions, pictures of my eight millimeter herniation, seven times four surgical staples, six new symptoms, five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On my tenth trip to the neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me ten numb digits, nine
On the eleventh trip to my neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me eleven centimeter incision, ten numb digits, nine new prescriptions, pictures of my eight millimeter herniation, seven times four surgical staples, six new symptoms, five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.
On the twelfth trip to my neurosurgeon my doctor gave to me twelve weeks on sick leave, eleven centimeter incision, ten numb digits, nine new prescriptions, pictures of my eight millimeter herniation, seven times four surgical staples, six new symptoms, five days of hospital food, four iv needles, three MRIs, two cognitive tests and the diagnosis of Chiari.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hi-ho! Hi-ho! (I owe! I owe!)

It's back to work I go went.  Monday, 3 hours a day to start, with breaks every hour if I'm doing something continuous.  My bosses are easing me back into my role.  We have a new computer system and programs have all been upgraded during my 5.5 month absence, so I am learning how to do things again.  Monday all I could access was e-mail... Because I wasn't there to use the system the IT guy didn't set me up for most of the necessary programs... Oh well, it was fixed by Tuesday.  Today I used one of the new search programs with my boss and we're very happy - it's easier and faster than the old way!  Hurray for change!! (Usually I don't like all!)  So I'm settling in... a little at a time.  I'm sure there are still a handful of people who don't even know I'm back at work.  I startled a couple of the lawyers - hey! Wait! You're back!  That's a good thing - at least they haven't forgotten who I am!

My orthopaedic surgeon basically discharged me from her care at my appointment last week.  My shoulder is not a surgical issue and she does not need to operate on me, therefore discharged with instructions to get back in touch with Dr. Gentili.  The ortho is fairly certain that my brachial plexus injury occurred when I had my decompression surgery and will be sending a note to my family doctor stating the same. So I'm being referred back to Dr. Gentili. 

Kinda scary... my physiotherapist and I were going through my return to work plan last week... she told me that if I do too much I could injure the brachial plexus further, resulting in permanent nerve damage.  I have to be very careful at work.  No overhead lifting.  Nothing over 5 lbs (basically, a pack of copy paper is too heavy).  And breaks when needed.  If I'm in pain for more than an hour after I finish work I've done too much.  Today, I've done too much.  I have sharp pain in my shoulder and upper arm, my wrist is sore, my hand is sore and I can feel pain up my trapezius into my neck and back of my head...  I picked up a minute book today - and knew right away it was heavy.  But some are full, some are empty.  How am I to know unless I pick it up off the shelf??  The last thing I want to do is have permanent nerve damage...  Guess from now on I will have to ask someone to get my minute books down... (insert heavy, feeling useless sigh... pffff!)

In other news, I've made is quite successfully through another craft show season.  I had my last show last Friday and Saturday.  It went quite well.  The day before the show my mother-in-law and I took my crafts to her old office (she retired in May).  The ladies there cleaned me out of my Christmas spiders!  I took 27, came home with 3!  Yikes! I had to go to the consignment shop and pick up some I have for sale there and then scrambled to make some more Thursday night for the weekend show.  They are my biggest seller at any show.  But I didn't expect my m-i-l's colleagues to completely clean me out!  Happily I had enough for the weekend and sold 8 more.  And I've sold 9 or 10 at the consignment shop too!  So now that you're going "what's the deal with the spiders" here's a pic....

And there's a legend which goes with each one on a scroll...

The Christmas Spider Legend

A long time ago in Germany, while a mother was busily cleaning house in preparation for Christmas, the spiders that usually stayed in the living room corner fled upstairs to the attic to escape from her broom. From the attic they could hear all the excitement from the living room as decorations were being made for when Santa was to come on Christmas Eve and bring gifts for the children.
Frantic to see the decorated tree, the spiders slowly crept downstairs for a view. Oh, what a beautiful tree! In their excitement, they scurried up the trunk and out along each branch. They were filled with happiness as they climbed all through the tree to see the glittering beauty.
But alas! By the time they were through climbing all over the tree, it was completely shrouded in their dusty-gray spider web.
When Santa came, he smiled as he saw how happy the spiders were. However, He knew how heart-broken the mother would be if she saw the tree covered with the dusty webs. So He reached out and touched the webs, blessing them and turning them to silver and gold.
Thus, the custom to have a spider ornament amongst all other decorations with tinsel of gold and silver on the Christmas tree was born.

And on that cheery note... ta ta for now!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well, Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers... Enjoy your turkey drunk today and shopping frenzy tomorrow!  Wish I could be in the States shopping... but not in the crowds!  I love our shopping trips to the US.  We usually stock up on all of the nom noms that I can't buy here.  The selection of soy based products here is very limited.  There is one store which sells soy yoghurt. I can get soy milk and almond milk easily enough, but other delicacies aren't as easy to find.  Like soy ice-cream that actually tastes good... Soy cheese, dairy free foods in general... Love shopping at Whole Foods in Duluth!!

I went to the dentist for the first time today since my decompression.  I'm just happy it's been 5 months since my surgery!  The little jerks and movements during the cleaning would have been really unbearable before now.  My hygienist was really good about not moving me into any hyper-extended positions.  Everything was good.  I have a bit of a stiff neck and mild headache now, but I usually have a headache after lying on my back with my mouth stretched beyond the limits of the tendons.  And this afternoon I get to go to the orthodontist - I broke one of the permanent retaining wires - two dental professionals in one day - LUCKY ME!  :P

Mum and I went to see Mamma Mia on Monday night.  Now, if you're a 70s child - which I am; you were brought up in a house filled with music day in day out - which I was; and you knew every ABBA song by the time you were 8 - which I did; this is the show for you!! And, even if you vaguely know who ABBA is, enjoy an excellent live musical theatre show, then get your butts to the box office when it's in your neighbourhood!! It was phenomenal.  The singing, the choreography, the storyline, the comedy... all top notch.  It was so much fun.  It was my first "loud" event since my surgery, and despite clapping and tapping my foot all night, singing along and standing for a good 8 minute ovation, I didn't feel bad on Tuesday - stiff and a little tired, but NO headache!!  I couldn't go to events before my surgery for the last while... shags (aka Doe and Buck, Jack and Jill, pre-wedding social - NOT the British shag), concerts, conventions, etc... the noise and the crowds were way too much for me to handle.  I'd have a headache for days. So, I was very happy to have such a wonderful time and NOT spend the next few days suffering for it.  
Still working hard work-hardening... About 4 hours a day most days.  I see gains and I have set-backs, but all in all, I think I'm doing well.  My physiotherapist did some more assessing and testing yesterday and it is still indicating a nerve issue - especially in the radial nerve.  Only 5 days until I see the orthopaedic surgeon for the neck and head MRI results and HOPEFULLY a diagnosis.  I cannot shovel snow, carry much, scrub the bathtub, but in time I hope I will have the strength and range of motion to be able to do so again.  Not that I miss scrubbing the bathtub ;P  (wishing this blog had smilies available...)
Now, off to the orthodontist... 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Snow is falling, though not quite as heavily as it was a few minutes ago.  It blankets the already covered lawns and walkways.  It clings to tree branches and windshields.  It creates driving havoc. My husband is hard at work sanding the roads making them safe for the trip home from Sunday Christmas shopping trips.   But the freshly fallen snow also creates beauty. It creates almost a quiet hush over the neighbourhood, with the exception of the cries of excited children.
The neighbourhood children are all busy building snowmen and forts and piling the snow as high as they can to slide down it on their toboggans and snowboards.  They take a wheelbarrow and literally shovel the snow off the road or the neighbouring lawns and pile it up.  Their cheeks are rosy and their woolen mittens hang from their strings, heavy with balls of snow, and wet from play.  They take turns pulling each other on a sled, up and down the cul-de-sac.  For them, snow means Santa will be here soon... soon enough!! Only 33 days away! Yikes!
I must confess, I'm getting in the spirit earlier this year than years past.  Maybe because I'm not at work and I've had time to think about the holiday season.  I started my Christmas letter a couple days ago and today started on my Christmas cards.  My international ones should have gone out last week... opps!! I'll get those out tomorrow.  
I was even prepared enough to mail my cousin's parcel to Finland by the end of October this year.  And it arrived on Thursday!! Hurray!! The past two years I mailed it before mid November and it didn't arrive until February!  Happy Valentine's instead!  My cousin has a 2 1/2 year old daughter, and she is the reason I send gifts.  I have no little girls in my family and my girlfriends all have boys, multiple boys!! So spoiling a little girl at Christmas is wonderful.  I bought her a Tinkerbell doll, which H allowed her to open already.   And saved the rest of the parcels for Christmas.  Her daughter said that Santa lives in Canada!  I can accept that and will fill that roll happily!
I visited my first couple of craft shows yesterday as well, which always gets me in the mood for Christmas, even if I'm not buying... ideas and looking at the Christmas crafts always helps set the atmosphere.  I did buy some Finnish cinnamon twists... soooo yummy, and Finnish dark rye mini bread rounds.  They're like a flat bun... slice, butter (or margarine in my case), fresh roasted turkey... Delectable.  I love my ethnic background cuisine...
I was going to start my Christmas baking today, I even bought most of the ingredients last week... but I was sidetracked by... well... okay, I just found the couch too comfortable and really couldn't decide at all what I want to start with!! Nanaimo bars... Raspberry macaroon bars... Butter tarts... Stained glass cookies... Ginger cookies... Just for starters.  I always bake, lots, and give some to my bachelor uncle and my papa.  My grandma in the past few years always had me make her Nanaimo bars for her as she had trouble with.  I found the recipe online and modified it so that it was perfect... and now I'm the Nanaimo queen of the family.  This week mum, papa and I will also make our first batch of stollen - German fruit bread - NOT fruit cake.  This light, almost fluffy bread is filled with almonds, candied peel and red and green cherries.  It's as much of a Christmas family tradition as turkey and sweet and sour purple cabbage for dinner!
The snow has slowed considerably... It's almost warm enough to turn to rain... I would have gone out to shovel the driveway, but tried the other day and failed miserably shovel in hand... way too hard on the shoulder.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Up, Down, and Jumping Through Hoops - EDITED

Up... way up... We (well, hubby) buys a lottery ticket every Wednesday and Saturday.  And every draw he checks the numbers and like the weeks, months, years before, we don't win.  Okay, we won $94 once.  Once.  Pffttt!! Big deal.  That was ages ago.
So Sunday, I was at my first craft show.  And hubby shows up.  Uh, hubby doesn't come to craft shows unless I ask him to help me carry my totes in.  So when he arrived at the show I was pretty surprised.  I like surprises.  He poses the following question...
"How close can you be to winning 6-49 (our lottery) without actually winning?"  Think, think, think... One number off on every one?  was my answer.
"How about 5 out of 6, and the sixth number off by one digit.  We had 34, they called 35."  OMG - so what does that mean?? We were 1 digit away from winning $16 MILLION dollars!!! Yep... We got third prize... which doesn't amount to much in comparison... but $1500 and change is not a bad thing!! So that evening we walked to the corner store where we always get our tickets and let the owners validate the ticket.  This way they get credit for sell and validating the winning ticket.  Then on the walk home we contemplated what it would have been like to win $16 MILLION!!  Yeah... pipe dreams... but oh how we love to dream...

THE REMAINDER OF THIS POST HAS BEEN REMOVED BY THE BLOGGER.... Thanks to my loyal reader who did get to see the whole thing...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Look Ma!! It's my (new) brain!

I had my brain MRI yesterday for the post-op baseline.  I've sent the CD-rom off to my neurosurgeon this morning.  I was fortunate to get my old PC up and running yesterday afternoon and got to see my images before I sent it to Dr. Gentili. (craziness... can't load the CD on my Mac!)

Look!! There's all kinds room for my brain!! I'm so excited!!

With my diminished headaches and improvement with the other symptoms like my speech, vision and thinking, I'm sure the neurosurgeon will say the surgery has been successful.  (Okay, I had to spell check diminished three times to spell it write - maybe my cognitive is still a little off!)  I'm extremely happy with my progress so far.  If I had to, I'd go through it all again.  Well, maybe we could leave out the brachial plexus injury...

Speaking of the shoulder, I was back at physio this morning for another set of instructions and to report to my physiotherapist.  She was so happy with my little spreadsheet I developed to track my progress.  So I will continue and I will add the other activities as she assigns them.  Today she also did some assessing for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).  I am positive for it in one of the 3 or 4 positions.  So, there is another piece in my puzzle.  I will also likely need a custom wrist splint made for me to go back to work.  I have the $25 one from the drug store, but it is aged and falling apart so when it comes time to replace it, it will be custom.  In addition to my typing and writing and grip strength I am also putting books up on a high shelf to simulate filing minute books at work.  And yes, I'm sore.  Time for some down-time before I make dinner.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

I'm so tired of writing for my work hardening that I can't come up with any ideas for my blog.  Yep.  Writing up to 8 times a day can really throw writer's block at you.

So here's where I stand.  Waiting to see the orthopaedic surgeon on November 30th.  At that appointment she will have my neck and head MRI results to see if we can figure out why my shoulder feels like someone has a flame-throwing pointed at it right now. And why my fingers on my right hand only work when they feel like it.  The rest of the time they feel like wood.  

I persevere with work hardening up to four hours of the day now.  Typing, writing, pushing and pulling drawers, screwing nuts on bolts, squeezing the life out of my squeezy thing - a motorcycle, and my stretches.  I'm tired.  I'm sore.  And I'm pushing through.

In other exciting news Disney is coming out with a new princess movie!! Tangled will be out November 24, 2010, and introduces Rapunzel to the little girls of the world.  Quite by coincidence my Halloween costume is Rapunzel!! And I got quite a few comments from little girls last night as I handed out treats!  Next year I'll be right in fashion!

We had a great Halloween this year.  The weather was mild and dry with little wind!!  I remember years with snow storms and tugging my costume over my snow suit.  We had 65 kiddies stop by, which I thought was lots for a Sunday night. I ran out of candy and turned off the lights about 8:15.  Not bad.  Our first treaters were here around 5:30, just as I lit the pumpkins and candles.

No, I'm not as talented as the fellow who carved the pumpkin in my last post, but here are my pumpkins all the same...  And I cheat.  I put these guys away every year and take them out next fall.  They're foam!  One of the best craft inventions ever!  One of the girls that came by asked if I painted the pumpkins white!! She hadn't seen a white pumpkin before.  I had to softly tell her that they are foam.  And then she laughed.  But yes folks, there are white pumpkins!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Visitors, MRI, Halloween etc...

I promised, and I shall reveal all of the wonderful things I experienced last week when my best friend in the whole wide world came to town.

Because she travelled with her mom, a young 82 year old wonderful lady, who is in a wheelchair, we agreed to meet for lunch.  J (aka mom) was meeting her sister and some friends for lunch at a new restaurant, by new, I mean open less than a week.  And while she visited with her family and girlfriends R and I got to sit together and have lunch.  Wow.  Catching up on everything that has happened in the past couple of months.  To be completely honest we haven't been in touch as much as normal this summer / fall.  Life - it gets in the way of everything.  So we are well caught up on our lives, her 3 kids and their comings and goings, the houseful of pets, and all points in between.  God how I miss her already, just 6 days later.  Our 2 hour lunch was bliss.  We just pick up where we left off.  Best friends.  Plain and simple.  Miss her, miss her, miss her like crazy!

In other news...

C-spine MRI is tonight at 10 pm.  Well, arrive for 10 pm, MRI will be thereafter... I will arrive early, as usual for me, panicking all the way that I will be late.  I'm a worrier.  Grandma said she did enough for 2, I do enough for the whole family.  It's a 6 minute drive, then parking... not a difficult scenario at 10 pm.  But I will be out of the house by 9:30.  Crazy, neurotic, yes.  But you can't change me.  Not much anyway.

Halloween is just a few days away.  House and yard are decorated.  And today we had a south-easter blow through... Time to go retrieve my ornaments from around the yard.  For the first time ever I own a costume for handing out treats.  I wanted like Millificent from Sleeping Beauty...  Not happening at our stores and not inclined to make it.  I settled for a nice homemade costume at the 2nd hand shop - Rapunzel - it was going to just be a princess or medieval woman, but then I found a wig for $11 - blonde, braid to my knees.  Cool.  I can work with that.  And all for $24.  Not bad.  I have tights and boots or shoes to wear already.  (And entire under-the-bed box of tights, leggings, nylons, knee highs... I'm an impulse stocking shopper... )  I just have to get the treats into my little baggies for handing out and we're ready for Sunday.  On this year's treat list - O Henry, Reese cups or Reese's Pieces (those just may stay in the box :P), suckers and rockets.  What's Halloween without rockets!?  We don't carve real pumpkins anymore since the invention of the foam pumpkins at Michael's crafts.  We have 4, I've carved them all and I stow them away every year.  I love intricate pumpkin carvings, so these are a lot easier on my hand / arm and my pocketbook!!

No, I didn't carve him... But it is amazing!!!  Artist is Ray Villafane - love the zipperhead!!! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Task: Typing

I'm doing work hardening.  And one of my tasks is to type as though I am seated at my desk at work.  For as long as my shoulder / arm can sustain it.  Trouble with this is I am way more comfortable on my laptop keyboard than I am on my keyboard at work.  And at work I'm not always constantly typing words, I do a lot of numeric entry too.  And my MacBook doesn't have a number pad.  Hurdle.  Will tackle it somehow.  So type till I'm sore.  Mission accomplished... 3 minutes.  But my shoulder was already sore when I started.
I also have to write, in a notebook, as though I am taking dictation or notes from my bosses.  Not bad, lasted 8 minutes the first time.  
Also working on grip strength.  That one is a little harder.  I have a squishy motorcycle stress thingy and I am using it as my silly putty doesn't offer enough resistance anymore.  
The relentless cycle of physio exercises is really interrupting my eating candy corn and watching endless movies.  Sheesh!!!  My physiotherapist should know by know I'm a couch potato after I finish my morning walk and physio.  I'm not potato shaped at least. I haven't gained any weight in the four months at home.  But I'm fixed to the couch.  A cup of tea within reach.  My various craft projects also within reach.  And my laptop on the next couch cushion.
Hmmm... I'm still typing - 7 minutes.  My arm and wrist are achy, but my shoulder is about the same... and there is a strong, uncomfortable burn between my shoulder blades which I presume is there because I'm actually sitting properly for a change instead of slouched in my couch potato pose.
The burn is enough.  For now.   Have to type twice more today...  I may run out of things to say, very shortly!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shoulder Update

I'm beginning to feel like this is a never ending circle of assessments, appointments, physiotherapy and MRIs.  And all I want is to get better and go back to my life!

I saw the orthopaedic surgeon yesterday for my shoulder.  She reviewed my MRI results - there are no tears in any of the muscles or ligaments of the shoulder.  There is a cyst on the head of my humorous, but it is consistent with the anchors placed during my two shoulder surgeries for the rotator cuff.  This is good news - no tears = no need for surgery. 

So where does that lead us??

Orthopaedic agreed with my physiotherapist's diagnosis of a possible brachial plexus injury.  And to see if this is the case, another MRI of my cervical spine has been ordered.  I'm already having an MRI on my head on November 7th as my follow up  from my decompression surgery, however the head shots only go to C2 at the most.  The brachial plexus anchors from C4 to C6 and T1. 

Because I am still in inconsistent pain and it is not fully diagnosed or controlled, orthopaedic said no return to work until she sees the MRI results in early December.  (Yes folks, it takes 2 weeks for the radiologists to read our MRIs after the scans are done, and then allow about a week for the report to electronically cross the hospital parking lot to her office, get downloaded and placed in my file.) If it is a brachial plexus injury then the orthopaedic will be sending a report back to Dr. Gentili and I'll be heading back to Toronto... They don't deal with it here unfortunately.   She advised my physiotherapist to start work hardening for a prospective return to work, if I can tolerate it.  My pain is so intermittent that this will be an experience.  Difficult, easy, painful, don't know how it will be.  I'm on my way to physio this morning to report to Bee.

Luckily I saw my family dr. in the afternoon yesterday as well and he ordered the C-spine MRI with a 10 day window, instead of the up to 12 week wait.  He recommended that they have my C-spine done at the same time as my head MRI - I doubt it is possible, but I can only hope the booking clerk can fit both scans in on the same day!

But gotta run!! I'll report on my lunch with my best friend and phyio's reaction to the orthopaedic's notes later!

Monday, October 18, 2010


I had the best email today from my very best friend in the whole wide world.  (And so you know, she now lives 1,600 km / 1,000 miles away).

The title of her email was "Tea".  We used to email each other at work all the time with "Tea" as our title.  Huh??  Tea, sweetheart, you are 1,000 miles away!  That has never stopped our desire for a teleport machine to whisk us off to a Tim's on a Tuesday night, but improbable.  Star Trek has not started marketing home teleport machines, yet. I'm waiting for an infomercial from William Shatner any time now.  

Intrigued?!  Heck yeah!! I opened the message.  She's coming to town TONIGHT!!! Extremely late, but still - TONIGHT!!!! Not for happy reasons though, very sadly, for a funeral.  But still, despite the loss of a family member, I get to see my bestest friend on Wednesday!!! That's just 2 sleeps away!!!!  And I haven't seen her since August 2009!!  And we're going for tea!!! We have a year of tea to catch up on! Plus she is staying just around the corner from our house, so I will also pop by and see her mom J who is also making the trip.  J reminds me so much of my dear grandma, she is truly a sweetheart!  And she kicked my butt at Scrabble - not bad for an 82 year old!

R and I have been friends for 8 years or so.  We met through work.  We worked in insurance claims.  (The racket I left behind nearly 3 years ago.)  We met each other to go to craft shows at Christmastime, tea now and again, and our friendship just grew from there.  R is like an older sister who I don't know well enough, but love every moment we spend together. I bought my motorcycle from her 4 years ago.  At the time she had 3, was buying a 4th, so needed to sell at least 2!  We then rode together, and started participating in craft shows together, and meeting for tea every second week, like clockwork.  Tim's on M Ave at 7:00, usually a Tuesday, unless something came up at work.  We've been through thick and thin.  Illnesses, men troubles, surgeries, kid troubles (her's, not mine, as we have none!), parent health issues, and her moving away to take care of her ailing mom 2 years ago. 

I have so much to tell her!! Our phone conversations and emails are just never enough.  She was supposed to come to Toronto when I had my brain surgery, but because of the G20 and the riots and the highway closures, she couldn't get into the city!  She was so upset she didn't make it there for me, but I understand.  And now she can see me all (well almost) all healed and feeling better than I did when I went to visit her and J last summer.  

Despite the sad reasons for the trip, I can't wait to see her!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I don't like Thursdays...

Or at least my body doesn't.  

Last Thursday I had an optic migraine which started when I walked past a fence through which the sun was shining as it rose.... like a strobe-light effect.  Gee, thanks - can't even enjoy a walk without a trigger!!  It laid me up for a couple of hours in bed, no major pain, just exhaustion.  And I had to have my hubby drive me to physio that afternoon because I still couldn't see straight.

This Thursday, well, it started Wednesday night, was a headache 8/10.  And I'm thankful it wasn't a Chiari headache, but it had me in bed for 30 out of 36 hours... and I only got up Friday when I did so I could go to physio.  I was fortunate that by then the headache had disappeared, but it took a lot out of me.  Like a limp rag doll I made it through physio and then took my husband out for lunch - his 39th birthday.  I just hate days like that.  I'm through the pain, but I'm still utterly exhausted and could use another day of rest.  Physio is helping my range of motion, but so far not my pain - which is still very intermittent.  Bee is still convinced it is a brachial plexus injury.  And from my reading, I'm inclined to agree.

This coming Thursday my head and body need to co-operate (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) as I have an 8:30 appointment at the fracture clinic with my orthopaedic surgeon, a 3:30 appointment with my family dr. to review what the ortho said and my return to work (or not) plan.  And I'm meeting up with up to 3 other Chiari sisters Thursday night for tea.  I'm going to be good on Wednesday so I can hopefully have an excellent Thursday.

By good, I mean not a day like today where I completely overdid it and knew I would before I even got started.  I wanted to get some stuff done around the house.  I have a long list of stuff I need to do and got through a couple of things today.  My house is not quite a mess, but it's untidy right now and it is driving me crazy.  So after my walk and breakfast I undertook cleaning the kitchen.  I cleaned the toaster oven we borrowed from my mother-in-law while our toaster was shipped back to Cuisinart for repair.  (Got me a brand new toaster delivered yesterday!! Good customer service at least!!)  So, wipe out the inside, and get out the stainless steel polish for the outside.  Well, I have the stainless polish out, might as well clean the face of the dishwasher.  Oh, there's smutz on the cupboard.... grab the magic eraser.  Oh geez, look at the fridge.... wipe that down too.  And OMG, look at the countertop - scrub, wipe, dry.  And the sinks - how did they ever get so filthy??  Scrub brush, stainless cleaner, rinse, wipe.... repeat on sink # 2. All sparkly and shiny.  The oven?? Nope, can't face cleaning the oven today, even if it is self cleaning  No, I didn't wash the fry pan.  I left it sitting on the stove.  PFFFFTTTTT!!!!! It can wait for Sunday morning.

By then I was tired and my shoulder was on fire, but only 2 or 3 / 10.  Not major pain, yet.  I sat down to take a break. Hubby went to his mom's with the shiny toaster oven.  I took a look at the aquarium across the room... OMG I can't see the fish!!  Poor fishies haven't had their home cleaned since before my brain surgery.... That'd be almost 4 months ago!  Or more likely over 4 months ago.  I'm surprised everyone hasn't gone belly up on me!   I got the buckets and drain line upstairs and proceeded to drain the tank as far as is safe, half a bucket at a time so at least I could carry it!  About 2 gallons at a time. Ugh, carrying is still not good.  I pulled out most of the plants and ornaments, filter, heater, thermometer, and about 1/2 of the stones.  Everything needed a good cleaning.  I'm surprised the filter hadn't packed in it was so full of algae.  Hubby came home in time to help me move the stand and tank and then refill it.  Thank goodness.  I was exhausted and my shoulder was singing soprano by the time the water was drained, not to mention the scrubbing and wiping and drying and cleaning everything thereafter!!  And then I had to re-clean the sinks and wipe down the counters again with tea tree oil cleaner - don't want any bacteria in the fish tank or on my food later!  I always clean the sinks before and after I clean the aquarium.   

My tank looks awesome now!! So I treated myself to a trip to the pet store to celebrate my clean tank.  I bought myself a new dwarf frog - Alfie, a bright red Betta - Hell Boy, and 5 black neons.  I don't name the neons and tetras because I cannot tell them apart.  It's just a 20 gallon tank, but I do enjoy my fishies.  I've had the tank nearly 12 years now and it's time to upgrade - the life of a tank is usually 8 years.  So now we have to decide if we want to stay with the 20 or go bigger.   Bigger tanks are easier to maintain.  But when it comes to cleaning day, it will take me longer.  A full clean takes me about 4 hours.  Today I took about 2.5 hours.  So, not a full clean.  And my shoulder singing in a pitch to break your finest lead crystal....  Don't think I'll be getting a bigger tank.

Friday, October 8, 2010


It's Thanksgiving, and it is GORGEOUS outside!!! The best Thanksgiving weather I've seen in YEARS!! Sorry, but getting excited about the weather is a must when it was 75F / 25C today!!  (And our usual temps are in the 50sF / 10C tops this time of year. And I've seen snow this time of year too!) So, yes, it's beautiful outside and I'm thankful!

For my side of the family, Sunday we are all converging at mum's with our homemade favourites to gorge ourselves on turkey and all the fixings.  The hubby's side is a smaller affair on Monday, but just as wonderful.  There is also have a bridal shower on Saturday night for hubby's side of the family.

Thanksgiving also means large game hunting (with guns) opens tomorrow.  Opening weekend is also known as Moose Widow Weekend.  Not that my husband is a hunter, (thank heavens) but I know plenty of wives and girlfriends who will be at the Canadian Male Strippers on Sunday night because their men are out in the bush chasing Bambi and Bullwinkle.  Me, I'll be on the couch with laptop in hand lap.  (Which FYI, sits on a stand on my lap, my skin is not getting burned as reported on every other news report this week!)  I'm thankful for my husband, whether or not he was a hunter, fisher, gatherer, didn't matter to me.  I love him.

I'm thankful to have made it through my posterior fossa decompression without any major complications!! HURRAY!!! I'm approaching 4 months post-op and still doing well.  I had the wickedest optical migraine yesterday, but it wasn't a Chiari headache, so HURRAY (yet again)!  With the exception of my on-going shoulder issues, I'm doing wonderful.  I feel like I have most of my life back.  And I'm feeling better than I can remember feeling in years, literally, years!!  

I'm most thankful for my family and few close friends.  Without them I wouldn't have made it through my difficult days, diagnosis and appointments.  They have been my rock, my shoulder to cry on, my heart-warming hug - even if only a cyber-hug, and my biggest supporters.  I couldn't ask for more from my family.  They may not always be breaking down the door to help, but when I need them, they're there in a heartbeat.  

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!!

Post Script:  Shoulder reassessment was this week.  Physio's evaluation - brachal plexus injury - which means neural damage (nerve) and no prospected return to work or normal activities in sight...  But I push through the exercises daily... and now have to reign myself in a bit - I've been a little overzealous with them...  My shoulder blade is out of place, and really, that sucks!! OUCH!! But my range of motion forward is improving, even if my abduction is still extremely limited.  13 days until I see the orthopaedic surgeon for the verdict!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Autumn Splendour

I am fortunate to live in a beautiful area on the shores of Lake Superior.  Last weekend we went for a drive down the lakeshore... This is Candy Mountain.

Lake Superior from Mt. Josephine

The NorWesters

And a couple days later, we took a drive to Kakabeka Falls to see the falls and the gorge... breath-taking.  But we didn't stay long.  They wanted $5.25 to park for 2 hours, exact change only, in coins - which we didn't have!!  So rather than risk a $30 fine, we stayed only 5 minutes or so.

I LOVE autumn in Northwestern Ontario...  But dread that winter comes next!!

In other news, just quickly, my MRI results are back on my shoulder... no tears in the rotator cuff!! Hurray! However, the rest of the report leaves me with questions - thickening this, bursa that... And my physiotherapist can't give an opinion on those findings as she is not a surgeon.  So why my shoulder is it so sore and so hard to move is still undetermined!!  Bee still believes that I have nerve damage and we're just working on keeping me moving.  I do the exercises she gave me two or three times a day - about 20 minutes each set.  I see the orthopaedic surgeon on October 21st... and we'll see what the verdict is.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Physio is going well and not so well.  My physiotherapist is fairly certain that I have damage to muscles and nerves.  But without the MRI results she is cautious in her treatment plan.  Results should be available sometime this week.  And of course my family dr. is not in town... so she will have to request the MRI from the hospital herself, or wait until October 18th when my family dr. returns.  (I'm a perpetual run-on-thought lately... where was I?)
We are doing nerve flossing and passive motion only.  My shoulder seizes up at times and catches and won't move through the motion she is trying.  It makes progress difficult.  And she finally found my pain.  For the first few visits she could not replicate my pain by moving my shoulder.  Now, finally on Wednesday she found it and it indicates that the labrum is torn by the ball of the humorous - again.  It could have happened because my labrum was already repaired once, or could have torn in a completely new place.  She is not sure.  She also believes I might have a tear in the deltoid muscle.  My radial and my median nerves show signs of damage... And only the supraspinatous muscle in the rotator cuff appears to be working.  It's a complex problem.  But she is trying very hard just to keep me moving.  But pain management and strengthening are out of the question.  My pain is so intermittent that it is hard to manage.  It can be completely gone for hours and then it can suddenly be 8/10.  It is frustrating.  She tried ultrasound and interferential, but neither have offered me any relief unfortunately.
My physio is very happy with my knowledge and acknowledgment of my pain and my explanations of what is going on with my shoulder.  I've been through two shoulder surgeries, I know the terminology.  It helps that I understand what is happening as well.  It's just frustrating that I can't help fix it.
The worst is waking up several times a night in so much pain that I can't even roll over.  The hubby says I have woken him up - I'm whimpering in my sleep.  Yeah, I'm in pain.  But I continue to try and do normal things - cook, dishes, a little shopping, and finally driving.  But by the end of the day, and two or three sets of the physio exercises, I'm done.  My shoulder pain radiates down my entire arm, across my shoulder blade, up my neck and down across my chest.  I can reach forwards, sometimes without pain, but not abduct at all (to the side).  It's agony if I try to reach sideways.  Physio explained that some of the neck and chest pain results from the other muscles compensating for the muscles which are torn.  My pectorals and trapezius are trying to work instead of the rotator cuff muscles.  Wonderful.  I really look forward to those MRI results too... I'm in need of some answers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Appointments Galore

I feel like I'm living at a clinic, hospital or lab all this week and next!

Physio started on Monday morning with a 1 hour 20 minute very thorough assessment.  The therapist  isn't really sure what is going on.  There is a problem with my deltoid muscle for sure, and quite likely some nerve impingement as well.  She said there is definitely something neurological going on.  Could be as a result of my arm being externally rotated and in a fixed position for my 5.5 hour surgery in June.  

Physio gave me a couple of exercises to do at home three times per day.  Epic failure on the abductor extension to do a spider walk with my fingers up the wall.  I am in absolute agony trying to raise my right arm to the side.  I cannot extend my arm fully further than a foot from my side with it straight.  PAIN, burning, searing PAIN!!  And then I bend my elbow or turn my torso to lessen the pain.  Hmph... a definite sign of something terribly WRONG!

I also had my full physical on Monday afternoon.  Won't die of high blood pressure according to my family dr.  And just to be safe he sent me to the lab for the usual fasting blood work - cholesterol, sugars, B12, blood counts, etc.  Everything else looks good.

Wednesday morning before physio I went to the lab and sat for an hour... and they didn't get me in (!) so I went back after physio to see the vampires.   (Why when you tell the lab tech that you won't get blood out of my right arm did she insist on finding out for herself!! ARGH!!)  At physio it was more assessing and some nerve flossing and passive motion.  She is trying to get my shoulder moving.

Wednesday night I also had my MRI of my right shoulder to help find out what's up with it.  Results will be back in about 14 days.  The "magic fingers" sensation of the MRI bed is NOT good for a 12 week post decompression patient.  I still have a headache 2 days later... (sigh...)

Last night I went for tea with a Chiari sister.  We met before my decompression.  She has had 4 brain surgeries 7 years ago - decompression, patch, shunts... All at the age of 17!  She's a wonderful young lady and I'm so happy to know someone in town who I can sit down and talk to.  In a town of 100,000 people it's a rare find.... or not so rare... I know of 2 other Chiarians who have not had surgery and 1 sister-in-law of a co-worker who did have surgery... so in other words, Chiari is more prominent in my little town than it should be!

And back to physio this morning.  Heat, more nerve work and passive stretching, and IFC to finish off for pain management.  It's funny - I'm not generally in pain, but I go through fits and spurts.  Pain when I try to do something - fold towels, wash dishes, shampoo my hair.  But having the therapist move me through the motions is fine.  And frustrating.  It's hard to figure out what is wrong when she can't reproduce my pain.

Appointments are done for the week, thankfully.  Next week I have physio x3, massage therapy, eye doctor appointment, lunch with a friend, and that's just for starters!!  Thank heavens I'm driving again!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Orthopaedic Appointment

With luck, after I went to emergency on Friday for my shoulder, I got into the the orthopaedic surgeon today at the fracture clinic.

It was almost a three hour wait, but that is to be expected.  I've been through the fracture clinic plenty to know what to expect.

Dr. W came in and review my previous shoulder history from my last surgery in 2003.  Asked about my limitations, weigh-bearing, mobility, etc.  She recommended physio for now, and will see me again in 6 weeks to review the MRI results.  My MRI, fortunately, is on September 15th, so less than a week away.

And, I can start driving!! So, this weekend I will go out with the hubby and do some test-drives to make sure my neck and shoulder don't hurt too much to drive.  'Cause starting Monday, I have physio at 10am a bit farther from home then I would normally walk.  And I have at least 3 other appointments next week.  I'm sure everyone is getting tired of being my chauffeur.

I also got my appointment for my brain MRI - it's for November 7th! Argh!! I'm pretty sure Dr. Gentili didn't think it would take quite that long to get one done... I've e-mailed him to find out. 

Until my follow-up with Dr. W in 6 weeks, my days will now be walking, physio, and sitting on my duff with the laptop.  I'm trying to do some crafts every day but the pain is preventing me from doing much.

Monday, September 6, 2010


1.  My wonderful husband has completed the trim work in the last bedroom.  IT IS BEAUTIFUL!!!  And he brought my piano up from the basement and put it in the room.  First time my piano has lived upstairs since we moved into the house!! :)

2.  I grew an ugly tomato - a really ugly tomato - people pay big bucks for these at the grocery store.  Should have sold it on eBay or something!!  But bumps, lumps and all the splits cut away - it tasted awesome!  There are still a lot of tomatoes still to ripen on the vines and I hope to make at least one batch of tomato sauce with them.

3.  I gave into the shoulder pain on Friday and went to emergency.  The doctor had an x-ray done - of course it showed nothing.  But he did put in a referral to the fracture clinic which will fast track me in to seeing the orthopaedic surgeon - hopefully in the next couple weeks (instead of MONTHS).  I was told to use a sling and to ice it.  I have been using the sling a couple hours a day while the hubby and I watch tv or while I ice it.  It helps a little, but not a lot.

4.  This morning there was frost.  The 6th of September - it's not unheard of, but still a little early for my liking.  I covered my tomato plants last night as I would prefer they ripen on the vine and not in the basement.

5.  Surefire way to aggravate a torn shoulder - sit down at the piano your husband moved into the spare room and play for the first time since last Christmas.  Three songs and I was done.  But I do miss playing!!

6.  I watched momma and two young otters swim down-river this morning on my walk.  They were fishing.  And so pretty!  I love watching wildlife.  And the river is only a block from my house, smack-dab in the middle of town.

7.  I promised a picture of my beaded Christmas tree ornament - the one I designed from a picture I saw. Here you go!!  Nothing amazing, but I think they are cute.  Right now I'm working on spiders - Christmas spiders (not creepy crawly gross things I make the husband kill if they live on the main floor of our house).  I'm getting ready for the Christmas craft show season.  This week I have to call the consignment shop in town and find out when I can bring in my stuff for the holiday shopping season as well.  I live in such a small city that yes, we have 1 consignment craft shop, and most craft shows might see between 120 to 500 people in a day.  You have to be diverse if you want to make any money with what you are selling.  There are many years when I don't even make enough to pay for the rental table.  I know I'll do one show this year, but might look into one more.

8.  Suddenly, after 10 weeks of having no social life, things have suddenly turned around...strange! I went for lunch with my mother-in-law and aunts-in-law on Thursday.  Saturday I had tea with a dear, dear friend who is going for wrist surgery in Toronto on Wednesday - I'm praying for her!!! And this week I will be having lunch with another friend before she goes back to Bogota.  Plus appointments galore in the next two weeks - massage, shoulder MRI, physical, eye doctor, and I really need a haircut soon!!  And I should hear from the fracture clinic too, so I'll have to head up there for a day too.  I'm not complaining - it's nice to be out of the house.  And in another week or so I can actually drive!! :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Post-Op Report

Monday was a long day.  It was also extremely hot.  Mum and I flew to Toronto for my follow-up with Dr. Gentili.  The basic gist of the appointment...

Posterior fossa decompression surgery looks like it was successful.  Dr. Gentili is very pleased with my recovery and progress thus far.  
My scars look good - the head is great, the thigh is not as good, a little hypertrophic - it's red and wider than it should be.  I can get some serum to reduce the look of the scar if I want to. But as I see it, it is a battle scar, not a beauty mark.
I can start driving in about two weeks.  But no driving in Toronto - hahaha!!  And just for short periods of time to start.  No 3 hour trips for a while.
Dr. G (I'm tired of typing his whole name, sorry folks, you get who I'm talking about) isn't confident that the numbness in my left leg is Chiari related (I disagree with this, but he is the doctor) and said if it persists that I should bring it up with my family doctor.  I also have some disc issues in my back which might be why I have the numbness.
I was told to see my eye doctor to make sure I don't have any retinal issues as I've been seeing more spots and halos than normal and Dr. G wants this monitored but doesn't think it is from the surgery.
I will have an MRI done here and send the results to Dr. G.  He will use the MRI as a base line to monitor my herniation and the arachnoid cyst in my right temple.  If the MRI looks good I don't need to see him until June next year.  If he sees something amiss he will let me know and I will see him in December or January.
After checking the clinical notes for the length of my herniation (sorry, didn't record it, but the tonsils were into the first vertebra) and if he took a picture during surgery of my brainstem (sorry, guess I didn't this time) he also looked for anything about my shoulder (nope, sorry, don't see anything and the positioning during the brain portion of the surgery should not cause my shoulder distress).  For the brain surgery I am laid on my face (obviously) with my arm externally rotated at my sides, not splayed out in a T.  But he does not know what happened when they moved me or rolled me over like Raggedy Ann.  He is sorry about my shoulder issues and did concur that the orthopaedic I found at Toronto Western is an excellent shoulder specialist and recommended I be referred to him by my family dr. as well.
Dr. G left the return to work discussion up to me and my family dr.

Mum and I walked approximately 7 miles in the 40C / 104F temperatures.  We walked through the Eaton's Centre, China Town, to the hospital, back through Kensington Market and back to the shuttle to the airport.  We were hot and exhausted, but it was a good day.  We had a few good laughs and a really nice early supper at Red Lobster.  And thank goodness for air conditioned airports and free cold drinks. And our flight was only about a half hour late getting in, so in all it was only a 18 hour day.

Today was the trip to my family doctor to discuss the shoulder and the return to work plan.

Family doctor (from hereon in fam dr.) did the referral to the second orthopaedic surgeon - the one at Toronto Western.
Fam dr. also did my referral for my brain MRI at Dr. G's request, sooner than later.  Hopefully it will be in the next couple of weeks instead of the traditional 6 to 12 week wait we usually have here for MRIs.
Return to work - hahahahahahaha - not possible with my shoulder right now.  My shoulder is getting worse by the day and the activities I can do with it are less and less.  I cannot hold a bath towel with my arm outstretched to fold it.  I cannot pour the kettle without supporting my arm with my left hand.  It's killing me to type my post, but I can't stand typing left-handed only... And the pain gets worse as the day goes on to the point that by 3:00 or 4:00 I'm usually very uncomfortable and bordering on wanting to go to the emergency room.  (but what's the point, they can't do anything for it anyway)  It burns in my shoulder, radiates down to my fingers, down my clavicle into my chest, up my neck into my jaw and ears, and down my spine.  OUCH!!!! And no pain killers work.  Where was I?? Oh yeah, even without the shoulder issue my fam dr. would like me to have 4 more weeks off of work.  But because of the shoulder 6 to 8 weeks more off work, minimum.  We will revisit the return to work sometime early October.
Fam dr. would like me to have the MRI results before I return to work.  And if it's in the stars, the cards, the heavens, and any other thing that could work in my favour, also to see an orthopaedic before I return to work.  So I'm on extended "vacation".

After my appointment I stopped in at my office to let my two bosses know what was up and talk to the HR department about the end of my short term disability coverage and the start of my long term.  Good news there, there should not be a lapse between the two plans and when we get close to the end of October I just have to pay my fam dr. to fill in more paperwork to confirm my symptoms and that I cannot yet perform my duties at work.  (I have not mentioned how much I dislike having to pay $30 for my fam dr. to write on a form for my insurance company telling them I cannot yet return to work.  But them's the breaks right??)  Both my bosses were in meetings, so I had to hang around for a while.  I chatted with a couple of colleagues and then brought my bosses up to date.  Both are sad that I cannot come back right now, but neither want me to rush back either.  My male boss noticed that I'm still having trouble with the cognitive thinking and transferring it to speech, but he was nice about it - said he could live with it.  (not in a condescending way, typing it out sounds condescending...)  It doesn't happen all the time but only when I'm trying to think quickly - like responding to a question.  My female boss misses me and really wishes me nothing but the best (she is possibly the nicest person I've ever met).  She too said once I am back she will accept any difficulties I might have returning to my duties and we will work with them so I can be the assistant I was before my surgery.

So, 6 to 8 more weeks off, at home, continuing to heal my head and hopefully hear from an orthopaedic!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Neuro Follow-up Tomorrow

Tomorrow promises to be a long, hot day.  Mum and I are headed back to Toronto Western Hospital to see Dr. Gentili for my posterior fossa decompression surgery follow-up.  
We fly out at 7 am and arrive around 9.  I planned out our day sort of.  We'll take the shuttle to Union Station and then walk up to the Eaton's Centre for some shopping.  (Why is it still called the Eaton's Centre if Eaton's went belly-up 10 or more years ago??)  Then we can walk or take the streetcar to the hospital for my appointment at 1:45.  I hope my mum's hip isn't bothering her because I'd really like her to walk through Chinatown!! I love it there.  It is so culturally diverse for 3 or 4 blocks and the bam - back to TO.  After my appointment we'll head back to the financial district and mall area for an early dinner at Red Lobster.  Then back to the airport by 6 for the flight home.  I mapped it out and if we walk all of it we're looking at about 10km / 6.25 miles, without the mall walking.  I can do up to 5 miles a day right now, but not all at once... So we may have 1 or 2 streetcar rides tomorrow.
I'm not sure what Dr. Gentili is going to say.  I'm sure he will agree that the surgery this far has been a success.  I don't know what he will say about going back to work.   Brainwise I am fine to go back I think, it's the dang shoulder that may prevent me.  I know I still have to have another brain MRI to check the decompression and CSF flow too.  But I think it will be another month before Dr. Gentili wants that done.  
Should be an interesting day. Tuesday I see my family doctor to determine my return to work based on what Dr. Gentili said.  And I will update my 3 loyal readers once I'm home from that appointment.
For now, I'm going to go soak up some sunshine as it is already 28C / 84F with the humidex.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Letter From Your Brain by Stephanie St. Claire

I'm glad to see that you are awake! This is your brain talking. I had to find some way to communicate with you. I feel like I barely survived WWIII and am still not quite all in one piece. That's why I need you. I need you to take care of me.
As time passes and you and I feel better and better, people, even doctors, will tell you that we are fine, "it's time to get on with life." That sounds good to me and probably even better to you. But before you go rushing back out into that big wide world, I need you to listen to me, really listen. Don't shut me out. Don't tune me out. When I'm getting into trouble I'll need your help more than I ever have before.
I know that you want to believe that we are going to be the same. I'll do my best to make that happen. The problem is that too many people in our situation get impatient and try to rush the healing process; or when their brains can't fully recover they deny it and, instead of adapting, they force their brains to function in ways they are no longer able too. Some people even push their brains until they seize, and worse... I'm scared. I'm afraid that you will do that to me. If you don't accept me I am lost. We both will be lost.
How can I tell you how much I need you now? I need you to accept me as I am today... not for what I used to be, or what I might be in the future. So many people are so busy looking at what their brains used to do, as if past accomplishments were a magical yardstick to measure present success or failures, that they fail to see how far their brains have come. It's as if here is shame, or guilt, in being injured. Silly, huh?
Please don't be embarrassed or feel guilt, or shame, because of me. We are okay. We have made it this far. If you work with me we can make it even further. I can't say how far. I won't make any false promises. I can only promise you this, that I will do my best.
What I need you to do is this: because neither of us knows how badly I've been hurt (things are still a little foggy for me), or how much I will recover, or how quickly, please go s-l-o-w-l-y when you start back trying to resume your life. If I give you a headache, or make you sick to your stomach, or make you unusually irritable, or confused, or disoriented, or afraid, or make you feel that you are overdoing it, I'm trying to get your attention in the only way I can. Stop and listen to me.
I get exhausted easily since being hurt, and cannot succeed when overworked. I want to succeed as much as you do. I want to be as well as I can be, but I need to do it at a different pace than I could before I got hurt. Help me to help us by paying attention and heeding the messages I send to you.
I will do my part to do my very best to get us back on our feet. I am a little worried though that if I am not exactly the same... you will reject me and may even want to kill us. Other people have wanted to kill their brains, and some people have succeeded. I don't want to die, and I don't want you to die.
I want us to live, and breath and be, even if being is not the same as it was. Different may be better. It may be harder too, but I don't want you to give up. Don't give up on me. Don't give up on yourself. Our time here isn't through yet. There are things that I want to do and I want to try, even if trying has to be done in a different way. It isn't easy. I have to work very hard, much harder, and I know that you do too. I see people scoff, and misunderstand. I don't care. What I do care about is that you understand how hard I am working and how much I want to be as good as I can be, but I need you to take good care of us, as well as you can do that.
Don't be ashamed of me. We are alive. We are still here. I want the chance to try to show you what we are made of. I want to show you the things that are really important in life. We have been given another chance to be better, to learn what is really important. When it is finally time for our final exit I would like to look back and feel good about what we made of us and out of everything that made up our life, including this injury. I cannot do it without you. I cannot do it if you hate me for the way being injured has affected me and our life together. Please try not to be bitter in grief. That would crush me.
Please don't reject me. There is little I can do without you, without your determination to not give up. Take good care of us and of yourself. I need you very much, especially now.

your wounded brain
©1996 Stephanie St. Claire
May be reprinted for personal, not for profit use.