Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's a....Buh...buh...buh...BEAR!

On Wednesday the boys went fishing on Lake Tahoe.  They caught their limit on trout and came proudly home with their catch.

We debated on taking to the restaurant in town that offered to cook their catch or just cooking it ourselves at our campsite.  Cooking it ourselves won, but not by a large margin...Brian was particularly skeptical.  I even tried to get online and research it but the wifi wasn't cooperating.  My mother-in-law assured Brian that she knew what to do.  He remained unconvinced, I think, but she forged ahead. 

Everyone was peacefully settled around the campsite.  My niece and nephew were playing washers.  Brian was cooking the trout on the grill.  My mother-in-law was supervising.  My father-in-law wasn't home from work yet.  My brother-in-law was lounging in a chair under the canopy by the trailer and I was in the trailer with the dogs making a salad for dinner.

Now, I'm sure you know by now my dogs are named Badger...and BEAR.  And in a place where it's possible for one to see an actual bear, having a dog with the same name can be inconvenient.

Like Wednesday evening.  As I said, we were all peacefully doing our thing when suddenly I heard my brother-in-law, Eric saying, "Bear, Bear, Bear!" Each time with more volume and fervor.  Well, I knew my dog was with me in the kitchen. So he wasn't talking to him or about him.  There could be only one other explanation. 

An actual BEAR.  I went running out the door.  And sure 'nough.  There was a young bear, maybe 2 years old ambling through the camp.  He was moving pretty fast and we were all so surprised, pleased, and enchanted that we didn't have time to grab a camera and get pictures of him. Mr. Bear didn't stop for chitchat or photo ops.  Just kept moving.  We watched him for about 3-5 minutes before he was gone. 

It was by far the coolest thing that has happened in a long time in my camping experience.  Poor Eric finally recovered, a little indignant that no one realized that he was NOT talking about the dog.  I assured him that I knew the entire time. 

We disinfected the picnic table, etc and got rid of all the trout evidence to make sure we didn't have a repeat performance from Mr.Bear since Eric and my nephew Riley were sleeping in a tent.  Even so, Eric said it was a bit of tense night for the first few hours until he was just too tired to care anymore. 

And I was sure I was bear-repellent...well, reinforces for me that I shall not be tent camping any time soon...

Go West

Last Friday Brian and I set out for Lake Tahoe, CA.

His parents spend every summer there.  It's not quite as glamorous as it sounds.  For about 7 or 8 years now, they have worked their buns off at a campground across the road from Lake Tahoe.  Brian's mom is the manager and his dad is the maintenance man.  And believe me, that is grossly simplifying their duties. 

But, you can't beat the scenery any time of day when they actually have a second to look around and they love working with the campers...even if most of them are native Californians...quirky folks, many of them.

We have taken to spending our vacations up there because except for Christmas, it's about the only time we see his parents anymore.  Oh please punish me...send me to Lake Tahoe...the mountains...the lake...the cool air...the woods...oh no!  Not that!!!  Plus seeing my sweet in-laws isn't bad either...

Last year, we spent our first wedding anniversary in Lake Tahoe.  I can think of worse places.  At home it was 100 degrees in the shade.  The lakes are so cold in Tahoe year round, I can't bring myself to do much more than to run in and run out again.  Brian climbed Mt. Tallac.  It was a nice vacation.  Only when we got home did we know something was terribly wrong. 

Just last year, almost a year ago now, we found out Brian was sick.  So,when we left on this vacation last week it seemed a little surreal.  We had come so far...done so much in just under a year.

As we headed out, our little family...Brian, Bear, Badger, and me, I couldn't help but think about what this trip meant.  There was a time when Brian wondered if he would ever be healthy enough to travel again.  I've been so exhausted lately from the anemia and ulcer, everything has been an effort for me. 

One of the books I love to read my students is called Hooray for Rodney Rat.  He is a little rodent who has a speech impediment who turns it into strength when a bully takes over the classroom.  Rodney is picked to lead Simon Says.  He gets rid of the bully by saying, "Wodney says 'Go West.'" The bully misunderstands and leaves forever.  His classmates understands he means to REST. 

As we headed WEST, I couldn't help but heave a huge sigh and think about RESTING.  We were going WEST and I fully intended to REST.  I had  a great week with the family and I did manage to lounge about.  I'm still gathering strength and not 100 % from the stupid ulcer.  Frustrating.  But I'm getting there. 

Brian fully enjoyed his time at the lake though he was terribly disappointed to learn that he couldn't do a repeat hike up Mt. Tallac this year...due to all the SNOW.  Maybe next year, baby.  LOL.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

And the Winner is....

An ulcer.

I survived the Sunday prep and the Monday procedure.  Can't get rid of me that easily.  Hehehehe.

After I "adjusted" to the no-food regimen of Sunday, and managed to drink the prep stuff (brief shudder), I can honestly say that as long as you have a good book, it's not that bad.  The prep stuff goes down easily at first (it almost tastes like grape) and if I had been able to channel the "college me" and chug it a little faster, it might have been even more palatable. 

It does liquify your insides; I'm not going to lie to you.  But it's not as uncomfortable as you might imagine.  But, like I said...be sure to have a good book.  And very soft TP.  Because after awhile (please excuse this image, those of you with more gentle constitutions...) it becomes more like sandpaper...

So, that's really the hard part.  Really.

The morning of the procedure all you have to do is cooperate with the nurse.  The most painful thing that happened yesterday was getting stuck for my IV.  And the nurse was so nice, I didn't even mind.  And I was so hungry and wanted a drink of water so badly, I forgot to be scared at all.  Plus, I was finally going to get to SLEEP.

Oh, and that was sneaky!  The anesthesiologist wheeled me into the procedure room, hooked me up to the machines, the doctor's assistant moved me over on to my side and stuck oxygen tubes in my nose and that is the LAST thing I remember until I was looking into Brian's beautiful blue eyes and it was all over.  No counting backwards, nothing!  Just nighty night!  My best friend Liz and her little boy were there too when I woke up.  All in all, a pretty nice way to come back to the world. 

And my doctor breezed in again. I don't think that guy has a slow gear.  He declared with his reassuring smile that it is in fact an ULCER.  Not great news, but hey...meds will fix that.  Gracias, senor. 

Brian loaded me up and we headed home.  Liz and Mason tried to reward me with cupcakes but our favorite place was closed for the day.  I think Mason was more disappointed than me.  Poor guy.  They are great cupcakes.

Then came trying to get my meds.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that getting my meds for my ulcer could give a person an ulcer.  Brian tried 4 pharmacies before he finally found one that had the medicine.  Then, because it was Target and not Walgreen's, I had to call the doctor back this morning to ask them to call it in again to a new pharmacy.  Sheesh.

Picking it up was another adventure.  Because it had a very long time since I had used that pharmacy, the tech didn't know how to process my insurance.  Man....my stomach was starting to churn a bit though I confess I had never really been able to feel the ulcer before. 

Fortunately, quick as a flash, another tech recognized the card and with just a $10 charge, I finally had my miracle drug.  Let the healing begin, people!  Let's celebrate with a new lip gloss and a cute pair of capris I found on the way to the check out....

I should be all healed up in a few weeks though Excedrin and I will never be friends again.  And I won't have to have a colonoscopy for another 14 years (with luck). 

In all seriousness I have to tell you that if you are 50 or older and haven't done this yet, you need to.  If I can get through it with a sense of humor, so can you!  And after the year I've had with the people I love, I can tell you--you just never know...so pick a good book and make that appointment! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Liquid Diet

So, tomorrow is D-Day.  So, today I'm on a liquid diet.  Yay! (please note sarcasm.)

It's not 10 past 8 am and I already miss food.  Silly, I know, but I think it's the knowing I CAN'T have any.  ALL day. I'm reminded of a character in one of the novels I read with my students.  In The Lightning Thief, Grover, the satyr, always moans/calls out "Fooood!" when he's been traumatized. 

 I plan to be pretty scarce when Brian is eating.  He won't mean to taunt me, I know.  Well, I wouldn't blame him if he teased me a little.  And all I can say is, I'm glad I won't see my brother today.  He would probably take great delight in eating in front me.  'Cause I love him, but he's got a little mean streak like that.  Hee hee.

Of course he is the one who kindly reminded me that I should be skinnier after this little experience today! 

I can drink just about anything I want.  In fact, I'm enjoying a cup of chicory coffee with a little sugar right now.  Mighty tasty.  But it would be ever so much more tasty with a bagel and a schmear.

Now, I won't bore you with the details yet to come, but my day will get more...uh, interesting later on...heaven help me.

So, we have two possible outcomes for tomorrow.  An NSAID ulcer or Celiac disease.  Neither particularly fun, but the ulcer is easier to fix.  Celiac disease would mean a complete and total life change.  Gluten free.  Yikes. 

I'm just anxious to have energy and be AWAKE again for significant periods of time.  The smallest things exhaust me.  It's getting pretty pititful, really.  I may need a nap after this.  (Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but not much.)

So, it's going to be a loooong day, I have a feeling.  I'm really looking forward to the answers tomorrow will provide, no matter how unpleasant it is to get there. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peace of Mind?

I went to the doctor today.  I was surprisingly calm, considering the way I had been feeling leading up today.  Perhaps it's all the support my dear sister friends have extended.  Perhaps it was having Brian there with me.  Brian who has looked some scary stuff in the eye and said, "BOO!"  Perhaps all of it combined.

Dr. Houston was running late, and though they were very apologetic, I wasn't the least bit upset. He was doing a procedure for a patient and it was taking longer than expected.  I would want him to take his time with me, so no worries here.

I was so tired this morning as well.  I slept last night.  But I put away the laundry this morning before we left and it took about all the energy I had.  Pathetic, isn't it?

Dr. Houston breezed in, a small ball of energy, still feeling the rush from his successful procedure this morning, no doubt.  He asked me some general questions, did a little cursory exam, you know--normal stuff.

Then, he told us what he'd like to do.  Haha.  He'd like to do an endoscopy.  And that will probably confirm I have an NSAID induced ulcer.  NSAIDs, I'm sure you know are pain relievers that are not Tylenol.  I take a lot of Excedrin.  I won't lie. So, that makes sense.  He said that the misconception is that when you have ulcers that you always have symptoms.  But, he said, there is that possibility that the endoscopy won't tell him everything he needs to know.  So, for insurance purposes and for everyone's benefit (!!!), he wants to do the colonoscopy, too. 

Can you feel me clenching?  He assures me that I will be knocked out with some very good drugs and that  I will hardly know anything happened.  Crap.  LOL.

I'm REALLY not looking forward to this experience, but this is the next step.  So, while I get this experience about 14 years earlier than I'm supposed to, as Dr. Houston reminds me..it IS peace of mind.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Life As I Know It

So, I experienced a little cruise interruptus this week.

I went for a blood draw last Friday to make sure that my iron levels were coming up as a result of taking the iron.  And then I blithely skipped off to the Caribbean with my friends.

I didn't think too much about it; I knew Monday the offices would be closed for Memorial Day.  I was busy buying jewelry in St. Thomas.  Hee hee. 

So I figured it would be Tuesday or Wednesday before there were any results to be had based on the tests before. The doctor was supposed to call Brian.  I emailed Brian on Wednesday and prepared to explore Aruba on Thursday. 

I checked my email on Thursday and never expected to see a reply from Brian begging me to call home (it's 7.95 a minute!!) because the doctor has been frantically trying to get in touch with me.  (They had finally seen the note in the file to call Brian.)

His email said my iron levels had continued to drop despite taking the iron every day and that indicated internal bleeding somewhere.  I have to see a gastrointerologist first thing Monday. 

I sat at the computer on the ship, crying in the middle of paradise.  This is a mistake, right?  I took some deep breaths and wiped my face. 

I went to guest relations to ask how you call home.  The young man at the counter looked at me like I was a little crazy.  "It's 7.95 a minute!" he whispered in his South American accent.  He started to explain to me how to call from my room, and then seeing that I was crying, he asked, "Is it an...emergency?" 

I wasn't exactly sure how to answer that.  Emergency in that I needed medical attention right then?  Well, no.  Emergency in that I physically have something wrong with me and I don't know what it is and my husband is frantic to speak with me?  Yes!!  I explained it that way.  He motioned me to move down the counter with him as he reached for the tissues.

"What's the number?"  he asked.  He was going to let me call for free!!  Soon I heard Brian's relieved voice on the other end of the phone.  He repeated what his email told me and just confirmed that for now I was all right. 

Trick question, right?

After I called Brian, I ordered a drink and sat and looked at the ocean for awhile.  Cried a little more.  Then I had to go tell my mom what I knew.

Suddenly I didn't feel so guilty for buying jewelry...

My appointment with the specialist is tomorrow morning first thing.  I am pretty scared.  Not going to lie.  No matter what, life will be different when I enter that office.

Can't catch a break this year, I guess.

The Suitcase

My mother and I just returned from a cruise with our friends from school.  We toured the Southern Caribbean for 7 days.  It was my mother's first cruise.  She hadn't even flown since before 9/11, I don't think.

You may recall she's just recently had surgery, so we weren't sure she was going to get to go.  But she got the all clear the week we were to leave.  She dragged her feet on the packing a little bit (even after I went to The Container Store and got her these awesome packing tools).  I knew, inevitably, that I would be packing that suitcase.

But my energy levels haven't exactly been soaring (see about two entries back) and I was trying to close out the school year.  We actually left on the last duty day for teachers. 

And as it turns out, I did have to pack the suitcase.  Now, I knew it was old when I packed it.  The woman bought the thing when my now 33 year old brother went to England with his high school choir when he was SIXTEEN.  (I'll wait a sec while you do that math....)  Yeah, so you putting together that my mama doesn't travel a WHOLE lot, right?

Unfortunately, I didn't grasp the true severity of the situation with the ancient suitcase as I packed.  I mean, this thing should either be burned or be in a museum somewhere.  I still can't decide which. I just knew I needed to get my mom's packing underway so I could go home and finish my own.

Skip to the day we leave. 

Now I want you to picture this suitcase.  It is a large cloth, tapestery suitcase that does roll, but only when you pull it on a little leash.  It does not have a sturdy metal handle that you can pull out to help you roll.

Mom tried to roll it into the airport when we were leaving, but it was a little unweildy and I didn't want her wrestling with it and her carry on. So suddenly I was wrestling her suitcase, mine and my backpack.

Then we arrived in San Juan, I had to schlep it out of the airport and up to the hotel room (we arrived the night before the cruise).  And so on...I have never been more glad to be on a cruise ship in my life and that first vodka tonic went down very easily, I must say.

Fortunately, on the way home, it was a little easier.  We had more help. 

And you can be absolutely sure that Mom will be receiving new luggage at the earliest possible convenience...whether she ever travels again or not.