Friday, March 20, 2009

Deficient again. Good grief.

March 20th. 2009
Before doing a writing assignment for a workshop I thought I'd warm up here. I failed pretty miserably at resetting my body clock. Until last night, the same game was going on: Deb trying to milk more out of each day in a sad attempt at lengthening her life. More hours a week = more life, right? 

Let's talk quality. I know damned well when I'm sitting in front of the TV at night with burning tired eyes that I am not extending my life or enhancing it. I know that medical studies show that lack of sleep is a factor in lots of negative physical outcomes. And I know how I feel the next day: slow starting, dragging around, tired. So I am making an attempt to improve my quality of life. 

I began, a couple of weeks ago, with a post on Facebook, to keep  myself honest. I am recording there, each day, how far and often I walk. I'm trying to increase distance and move to two walks a day instead of one. Progress on the former is steady, the latter is spotty. Due to some harsh, cold, damp weather I will forgive myself for not getting out twice a day very often. But walking is getting easier and I am getting stronger. My former minimum walk of 3/4 mile is now up to pushing for a mile, at least a half hour instead of twenty minutes. A few days ago I managed a three mile walk (with a break at the beach half way) with only aches and no ill affects after it. I backed down to one and a half to two since then and hope to build back again. 

However I am fighting three difficulties in my quest. One is the whole getting to bed difficulty. Not getting to sleep. I drop right off. But  I realized a second reason I avoid going to bed. I have nightmares. Since being present (in the next room) when a man dying of cancer, who I was helping with daily care, shot himself to death, I've had some post traumatic stress and anxiety, not to mention anger. Part of the fallout has been nightmares. Duh, I realized last week, no wonder I don't want to go to sleep! 

The second difficulty has been Shadow's change in behavior. Around holiday time she began turning Cujo at UPS men, the mailman, visitors in baseball caps, missionaries and more lately, cars driving down our street. She has for sometime been doing this while she's riding in the car, barking at certain bikes and dogs who are out walking. I have been working on it but lately have felt too worn and on edge to deal with it effectively. My anger comes up. I want to pick her up and shake her. I can't. I don't. But I want to. And my right arm is much less painful from the strain of all her lunging after two months of walking her with my left arm, but I'd hate to reach the point where I cannot walk her at all while I heal both arms! So I've been working hard at being conscious and focusing on her more intently when we walk, trying to catch the behavior early enough to get her in a sit/lay and stay until the stimulus has passed. I did better at that yesterday, though it was exhausting. 

Which brings me to the third difficulty. On March 6th. I saw the doctor for "routine maintenance" and he sent me for blood-work. I went directly next door to the hospital and got that over with, no easy thing for me -the stone- from which lab techs must somehow coax blood. Now when I suggest putting a hot pad on my hand for a while before they try, they don't even raise an eyebrow. So yesterday - yes, 9 working days after the blood draw - my doctor's nurse called suggesting I go to the pharmacy and pick up a prescription for potassium. I did. I took the horse-pill with a glass of water like the paper said. She also told me my cholesterol has soared over 300. The exact number did not register as I was so stunned by the three hundred part. So I figured they'd put me back on Crestor, which had worked very well at lowering my cholesterol until they took me off it a year ago while trying to diagnose my sudden deterioration, which involved a lot of muscle pain and they thought Crestor "could" have been, though we found it wasn't, the culprit. But no. I cannot start the cholesterol meds until I visit the doctor again. Next week. Okay. Fair enough, I guess. I procrastinated and did not go in for my six month check up in February as I was asked to do, but waited until March. So who am I to complain about slow reporting of lab results, which were probably available on the 6th. but I was not called about the deficiency in potassium until the 19th? I am complaining because on the 17th. and 18th. my malaise was palpably worse. On the 19th. I felt incredibly bad. Scary bad. Like back to last year bad, without the muscle pain. I had invited a friend for dinner and besides my walk and the trip to the pharmacist, dinner was all I could manage. I did not make a dessert. Anyone who knows me well knows the significance of that statement. 

BUT, I did eat dinner with my friend, and I did get to bed at eleven and I did sleep a blissful eight-hour sleep! And I woke up feeling like myself. Not sick and scared like I felt yesterday but well. So I feel a tad pissy about not having this potassium two weeks sooner. And I remember my friend Carolyn, at Dana Farber Hospital in Boston, at the end of a weeks experimental chemo. The nurse changed the iv bag and almost immediately Carolyn started complaining to her that whatever was entering her veins was burning and she couldn't bear it after the week of chemical assault. "What is it? Stop it now! I can't bear this!" And the nurse told her it was potassium and she absolutely had to have it - it was vital. "There must be some other way. What do I have to do to make you stop this?" Carolyn demanded. The nurse said there was a pill but that she could never keep it down. She would throw it up. "I won't. I promise. Take this out of my arm now and give me the pill. I promise I will keep it down." And she did. And the nurse put another in her blue cosmetics bag and said she must take it by one o'clock the next day, Saturday. Carolyn promised she would. I drove her home later that day. And the next day I called her at one. "Carolyn, did you take your other potassium pill?" 

"What?" she answered. "What are you talking about?" So I told her and she took it. And for years after (she lived ten more rich and full years) she would ask me "Tell me again about how I talked to the nurse at Dana Farber." She was rightly proud of how she'd advocated for herself and taken control of her care even though she was weakened and wrecked from a week of 24/7 chemo, then an experiment to save her from a deadly breast cancer. All this was considered her only hope after a double mastectomy and radiation. And she could not even remember doing it. That's how strong she was. So when I feel like pissing and whining about all my "deficiencies," I think I'd better remember that day and take the damned horse pill in her memory and be grateful. 

Update: 26 Nov. 2010
Most nights now I do get to bed at 10-11p.m. and I wake up early and refreshed. Walking 2-4 miles daily helps. Getting rid of the TV in July helps. Getting off Facebook last April helped. And the supplements, well, I'm sure they help too. Not too great a price to pay for feeling great. 

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