Monday, July 18, 2011

Total Rock Star

I gave Simba a hair cut yesterday since his mane was getting a little long and we don't want him to get too hot. He turned out looking like a rock star from an 80's band. And no styling was involved - I am not that bad.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Where I Have Been ...

I have to admit that it has been a strange few months heath-wise. When I saw Dr. Zen four months ago, I was feeling okay and not in too much pain except when I overextended myself. But I felt comforted by the fact the each time I had a blood test the inflammation was lower and Dr. Zen was confident the medications are working and I would only continue to get better.

Eight weeks later I had a blood test that showed normal levels of inflammation, which had me excited but completely baffled because I was in some serious pain at the time I took the test. According to my doctor I should not feel any pain when when there was no inflammation so what was going on?

I knew I had another blood test in eight weeks before I saw Dr. Zen again plus I knew that one could not base everything on one blood test, so I should wait and see how things play out.

Over the next couple of months I began to have chest pains and like anyone else probably would, my mind went to possible heart problems. But the pain was along my sternum and alternating sides of my chest, especially after working in the yard and things like that. First thing I do is hit the internet, my usual process. It turns out that Rheumatoid Arthritis can effect the cartiledge that joins the ribs to the sternum. It definitely explained the pain along the sternum but not the ache in my chest that feels like someone poked me way to hard deep inside the muscle. I found a few different possibilities, but some are so crazy that I am going to leave it to the doctor.

I just received the results from the blood test I had last week and the inflammation levels that showed were even better, but yet again I was in quite a bit of pain when I took the test. So I went onto RA Chicks Facebook page and asked if anyone else has experienced the same thing. I was honestly surprised to receive as many responses as I did which just goes to show that no one ever knows as much as they think they do when it comes to a disease will no cure (as of today). Quite a few women said that their doctors do not even go off the blood tests to judge disease activity. There is also something called seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, which I do not know a lot about but they said that it does not show any inflammation at all. The most important thing to me is that the is no ongoing joint damage.

So now I am counting the days until I see Dr. Zen and luckily it is only a few days away. I am definitely going in prepared this time with my research, comments from other RA ladies, and my specific questions. I want to make sure I walk out with answers to the pain without inflammation on my blood test and the chest pain. Anything else can wait since there will always be another appointment and I only have so many minutes with Dr. Zen.

And the pain is pretty much why I have been away. My hands are bothering me the worst and when they are not too bad at the end of the work day, I want to use that time constructedly around the house. I was pretty happy to have had the energy to do some gardening, cleaning in the garage, and even replace the toilets in our two bathrooms. The fact that I have been able to do that much keeps me feeling good and I am always planning what I am going to next. Believe me, it is a very long list!

Another random item - I talked my primary care physician into ordering allergy tests since I have read articles about allergies and RA. It turns out that I am allergic to quite a lot of things. The biggest reactions were sesame seeds, mold, and cats and dogs so the doctor told me I should avoid all four. That is totally not happening! I grew up in a house constantly full of animals and continue to live that way. My two dogs and one cat are not going anywhere. I am also allergic to several trees and grasses. On the low end of the reaction scale, I am allergic to wheat and corn. My big question is whether avoiding allergens will lessen the occurrence of RA flares and is it worth avoiding the food items if they are such low reactions. Lots of questions.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Awesome Anxiety-Free Weekend

This weekend was really huge for me. We started it by heading out to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for KROQ's Annual Weenie Roast, which is a huge concert to raise money for various charities.

I was definitely feeling anxious thinking about how many people would be there, but then I decided to look at it as just another challenge. I knew that once I got there I would most likely be fine plus Rommel made sure I knew that we could leave whenever I wanted to, which always makes it easier for me.

Just as I thought, I was a lot less anxious once we got to the venue. I was just so excited about what we were going to see. I did have a scary moment in the middle of the day when no bands were playing, it was getting really crowded, it was hot and uncomfortable, and I just wanted to get away. We found a little shade behind a booth to cool down and before we knew it they had opened the gates to the larger stage and I had calmed down.

The walk up to the amphitheater was actually insanely long. This was before the main stage opened and the whole place became unbelievably crowded.

This is a glimpse of the side stage where the first few bands played. It was standing only and completely in the afternoon sun. Instead of dying in the crowd, Rommel and I found a shady spot to listen to Young the Giant, Foster the People, Airborne Toxic Event, and Neon Trees.

We had seats around the middle of the amphitheater which were actually pretty awesome.

Face to Face

Cage the Elephant was one of the bands I was looking forward to the most. They were so good and they were big on getting the audience involved which always makes a show better.

Bad Religion! One of my favorite parts of live shows is when the whole crowd joins together to sing and that was what their whole set was like. It was amazing!

My absolute favorite set of the night was the Strokes. They were so, so, so good! I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to see them again in the future.

The last two sets of the night were Rise Against and Lincoln Park, but I agreed to leave early. Rommel honestly could care less who most of the bands were and only went because I wanted to. Plus we had been there for seven hours (this is after I spent half a day at work) and I was ridiculously sun burnt. The awful part was that we missed the surprise guest - the Foo Fighters! I don't think I will ever leave anything early again.

On Sunday we headed to a local arts and crafts festival that I local forward to every year. Rommel gives me a budget and I try my best to stick to it, but I always have a hard time limiting myself at flea markets, etc. Although the festival rocked again this year, I did not leave with much.

I bought a couple of steel butterflies for our front yard. I bought a few pieces from the same couple a year or two ago and I love the way the weather and rust.

I also found a gift for my dad for father's day, a hand sculpted piggy bank that is a pig dressed as a pirate.

I was a little disappointed that I was not finding much that I was really excited about when I walked by the very last booth before walking to our car. I noticed that the vendor had lilac candles which I had to stop and smell. The neighborhood in Illinois where I grew up had lilacs everywhere. I miss that lovely scent and am always looking for real smelling lilac candles. It turns out that the woman running the booth also grew up in Illinois and had created certain scents with the state in mind, which were lilac, honeysuckle, and citrus and tomato leaf. It just so happens that I hate tomatoes but love the smell of tomato plants. I ended up spending the rest of my budget on lemon, lilac, and citrus and tomato leaf candles. Even better is that they are soy candles which burn a lot longer than wax candles.

To finish the weekend off we decided to see that Pirates movie, which was not great but there was something even better about the movie - I did not experience any anxiety about going to the movie theater! I mentioned it before, but I had not been to the movies in several years because the experience caused me to have panic attacks. We have gone to two other movies so far this year and I had some anxiety each time. Plus I was only comfortable sitting in the very back corner of the theater. This time I felt pretty comfortable and we actually sat at the end of a row in the middle of the theater. It may sound insignificant to other people, but I am extremely proud of being able to do this anxiety-free.

Such a fantastic weekend!

I have so much more to share with you guys. I have a lot going on and several projects in the works around the house.

Hope you are having an excellent week!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, June 3, 2011

what i've been up to - a ton of pictures

It feels like years since I have posted anything on here!  SillyGrrl had a post on the new blog templates she had designed and after purchasing one of her gorgeous looks for my own blog, I have been inspired to start posting again!

It's definitely been a busy few months and I wanted to share pictures of my little world with you fabulous people.

My sister and her boyfriend had friends getting married in Vegas and since we have a lot of family there, we decided to have everyone meet up for a few days.  It was a great chance to see my parents and my sister all together, which does not happen that often.  Since we go to Vegas a lot and this would be the first time I have been there since my anxiety has calmed down, I set out to find unique things for us to do.

We had to hit one buffet while in Vegas, so we headed out to the Red Rock Casino.  I gambled a whole three bucks while my family waited in line.

I read about the Shelby Museum when I was looking up interesting things to do in Vegas.  My dad and Josh are huge car buffs, so I knew they would love it!

Those girls at the car shows need to watch their backs or my dad might steal their job!

My sister's boyfriend Josh had never been to Vegas and wanted to see a bit of the casino stuff, so we took him to the Bellagio and the Mirage.  The flower exhibits at the Bellagio were absolutely amazing.

One of the unique places I wanted to go was the Atomic Testing Museum.  My parents did not seem to excited about it, but they actually found it extremely interesting and kind of enjoyed it.  My grandparents lived in Vegas during the testing period, although my mom was just an infant and does not remember much of that time.  My uncle also worked as a laborer at the actual testing site.

Besides the items you would expect to see at a museum for atomic testing, they had a temporary exhibit on the culture of Vegas during that time period.  It's seems crazy now, but it actually increased tourism for the city.

This is one of the mannequins JcPenny's donated to the government to set out near the actual blast site to judge the effects.  It was strange to see how one mannequin would be decimated and the one right next to it was untouched.  And no, the mannequins eyes were not like that in before the blast.  Seriously creepy.

Miss Atomic Bomb 1957

 Sorry that the video is a little shaky, but you had to hand crank the video.

The Silverton Casino has a 117,000 gallon salt water aquarium in the lobby and has feedings twice a day where a diver answers questions.  Extremely cool.  Too bad we missed the mermaid show.

The Silverton Casino is attached to a Bass Pro Shop that has an actual "river" running through it.  It was full of ducks, turtles, salmon, and sturgeon.  You can see how large it was compared to the guy who had to wade in to get a pacifier that someone dropped over the side.

And most importantly, we had a lot of time with family.  My grandfather will be ninety-one on Monday and he is doing amazing!  He is so lucky to have Janet in his life, who takes wonderful care of him.

Then it was back home.

After seven years in California, I have finally tired of the flowers I plant dying on me.  It's not their fault; I am not very consistent about taking care of them.  So I have begun planting drought tolerant succulents around the yard.  Hopefully it will all come together and I will share some pics with you later.

I have also been adding shelves around the house specifically for the little devil above.  She needs more places to get away from the pups and I have been watching too much "My Cat from Hell."

Finally, it was time for a change from the pink hair.  Apparently bleaching the pink out would turn my hair orange, so I decided to go dark.  And I am still trying to grow my hair out, but I couldn't resist getting a little taken off.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Four weeks ...

In my last post I mentioned that I had taken a good friend to the emergency room because she was having trouble breathing even after having taken a week's worth of antibiotics for walking pneumonia. That was four weeks ago. Four weeks filled with ups and downs, hospital visits, and a million text messages. Four weeks of meeting some really great people, unnerving moments, and looking for anyway to help. Four weeks that felt like forever, yet went by incredibly fast.

She is still in the ICU and we are all sending her our love and hoping for things to turn around.

As for me, I am pretty much a mess. My body hurts more days than not because the stress is causing my RA to flare. I am still not really sleeping and when I do it is mostly nightmares. Plus my anxiety seems to be mounting each day and each time the phone rings.

I am attempting to take care of myself because I know that I cannot help anyone if I am falling apart. Even though I do not want my friend to know that I am there for her, I am trying to limit my visits because it is so draining. I am trying to distract myself with other things, such as gardening, to keep from obsessively worrying. And after several weeks of emotional eating, I am starting to watch my diet a little more.

I do not know when I will post again, but hopefully it will be about D making a complete recovery and leaving the hospital.

I wanted to thank Lauri and Jamie for everything. They have taken the time to keep us updated on every little thing that has happened and without them we would be lost.

I cannot forget Angela, who is the best friend ever and always there for me.

And Rommel, my loving husband, who has been so understanding and still loves me through my bitchier moments.

D, we miss you and love you.