Picking Up The Pieces

Near the Puget Sound, where I live, snow seldom falls.  On those rare occasions that cold, white precipitation makes an appearance, accumulation is generally less than two inches.  A few weeks ago, however, things changed.  It snowed, and snowed, and snowed some more.  We had a record-breaking TEN inches overnight, and the snow continued to fall.  It was beautiful!

The interesting thing about living where there is very little snow is that very few cities or counties own snowplows because it’s difficult to justify the expense. On those rare occasions that snow falls, everything comes to a grinding halt. My schedule instantly emptied. Swimming lessons were cancelled. Violin lessons were cancelled. Piano lessons were cancelled. Drum lessons were cancelled. The dishwasher installer phoned to say he couldn’t make it. The streets were impassable, and we enjoyed a peaceful week at home without having to drive anywhere. I loved it.

    

Not everything was perfect, though.  There’s a huge maple tree in my yard:

A few days after the snowstorm, we got hit with an ice storm.  Freezing rain coated everything.

I’d never seen anything like it.  Never heard anything like it, either.  It was too much for the trees.  All around, it sounded like gunshots as limbs succumbed to the cold and ice, snapping and plummeting to the ground.

The ground shook as our beloved maple lost its battle with the ice.

As we’ve been cleaning up the debris, I’ve been thinking that this storm was a little like receiving an RA diagnosis.  Storms can’t be prevented, and neither can RA.  Suddenly your entire world has changed, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.  We just deal with the storms in our lives, and pick up the pieces so we can move on.

My poor maple tree.  On hot summer days, I’ll miss the shade.  My kids will miss their tire swing.  There’s no point in mourning forever, though.  We could pile everything in a heap and have a big bonfire, but then all we’d have left is a pile of ashes.  What a waste.  Instead, the smaller branches have all been carefully stacked; we’ll use them to heat the pool this summer.  My daughter will turn some of the wood on our lathe, and make beautiful pens – which she hopes to sell to fund a missions trip she wants to take this summer.  The larger limbs have been set aside to season, and will become beautiful salad bowls.  We’ll try to take a disaster and make something beautiful out of it.

I want that in my life, too.  A chronic diagnosis can seem like a disaster.  Maybe there’s a way, though, to pick up the pieces and turn them into something good.

Happy New Year

As I write this, December has just four hours left, and then we’ll be on to a brand new year.  2012 looks like it will start off well – that means no doctor appointments scheduled in January.  Don’t get me wrong, I have great doctors.  I’m just tired of needing to see them.

From a medical standpoint, 2011 was discouraging.  Despite the fact that I blog about living with an autoimmune disease, I really don’t want “patient” to be my full-time job.  I don’t even want it to be a part-time job.  Given that I have to deal with an incurable disease, I’d love to be well-controlled so that I could pop in for a quick check-up with my rheumatologist every six months and forget about it the rest of the time.  What a contrast when compared to 2011’s reality!

Adding up my office visits over this past year, I had many more than two simple rheumy appointments:

  • 6 Rheumatologist
  • 9 Family Physician
  • 3 Podiatrist
  • 1 ENT (I did not go for testing, and cancelled the follow-up appointment)
  • 4 GI
  • 3 Surgeon

Add in:

  • 1 outpatient x-ray
  • 1 outpatient CT
  • 1 outpatient ultrasound
  • 3 outpatient trips to the OR
  • 10 physical therapy session
  • 5 days inpatient (numerous tests and doctor consultations while in the hospital)

That’s twenty-six office visits to see physicians and sixteen other appointments, for a total of forty-two medical appointment in 2011 – plus five days in the hospital.  No wonder I felt like I was always seeing someone for medical care.

It’s exhausting.  I sincerely hope that 2012 is better, because I am D.O.N.E!

***

Believe it or not, I have a life apart from obtaining medical care.  On a happy note, our first calves of the season arrived on Christmas day.  Twins!

Unfortunately, the mother did not feed them.  For two days we took a bottle to the pasture to feed, but when it turned rainy and the calves were looking in sad shape, my son showed up in my kitchen with a calf in his arms and asked me to get some towels to warm and dry the calf.  While I rubbed the first one down, he went after the second calf.

One of the calves was strong enough to take a bottle, but we had to feed the other one with a stomach tube.

Unfortunately, the weaker calf didn’t make it, but the other is doing quite well.  She loved to get to her feet in the middle of the night and tap-dance so we’d know she was recovering nicely.

In my book, if a calf is healthy enough to take a bottle and clomp about at-will, it’s healthy enough to move outdoors.  Lest you worry that we tossed her back out in the pasture, never fear.  She’s warm and dry, out of the wind and rain.

It’s nice to have my kitchen back.  It’s nice to know that the calf is okay.

And I’m hopeful that 2012 will have many such happy outcomes.

Wishing you a Happy New Year 

Never Make Assumptions

Now that I’m (probably) done ranting about Children’s facilities fee…

DMARDs can have some weird side effects, and not all of them are printed on the medication’s package insert.  It’s probably a good idea to mention those side effects to your doctor sooner, rather than later, just to make sure that whatever is going on really is a side effect and not something to be concerned about.

A month or so ago I read one of those Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore articles and thought to myself, “Hmmm… I have a couple of those symptoms.  Maybe I should discuss this with my doctor, seeing as I’ve only spent $2507.25 on medical expenses this year, significantly down from the $4189.74 I spent last year.”

I wasn’t surprised when the doctor ordered tests and more tests, the results of which determine whether or not more tests are needed.  Weary, but not surprised.

It was very nice to have him be candid and not beat around the bush:  “This could just be from all the medications, but we need to see what’s going on to make sure it isn’t cancer.”

Now I’m waiting for test results, and trying to avoid searching for information on the internet.  That means I’ve not used my computer for much other than checking in with family and friends on Facebook.  It’s been good to just push things to the back of my mind and try to ignore them.

Meanwhile, the world still spins and life goes on.  We’ve started a new school term and it looks to be a very challenging year.  Up til now I’ve been able to handle helping my kids with their schoolwork without too much difficulty.  This year the older kids’ classes include biology, chemistry, and advanced physics, and I can’t just answer questions about those things off the top of my head.  I’ve done okay up through algebra 2 and geometry, but suspect I’ll have to review my trig to help my son with his pre-calc course.  I really don’t have time to have my life disrupted by even more medical appointments.

Life is pretty full and time-consuming right now.  I’m swamped, but loving it.  Recent events have emphasized how important it is that I make the most of my time with my kids.

If you notice weird symptoms, don’t spend twenty-one months assuming they’re due to your meds.  Talk to your doctor to make sure.