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.