Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Have a Ruptured Donut

Guys. Ready for another round of Julia wah-wah-wah? No? See ya'll tomorrow, then. on......

I have been in denial for the past six to eight months about this nagging back pain that turns into a numb right leg and foot after I walk it around. In defense of my denial, this showed up during a period when I was feeling crummy overall and wasn't doing a lot of walking around anyway. Then after my rituximab infusion and it's accompanying higher doses of prednisone, it all went away. Ahhhhhh. 

I forgot about it briefly until the pain and numbness returned as I tapered my prednisone dose. Rats. So during my last visit to Dr. Young Guy, I 'fessed up, and he ordered an x-ray of my back and made a referral to a physiatrist for me. 

What's a physiatrist? I asked suspiciously, thinking that the name sounded psychiatrist-y. 

"It's a physician that's received special training that combines orthopedics and neurology. They do lots of rehab work." Oh. Spiffy!

I received an appointment quickly, and last week met my very own physiatrist physician, who turned out to be even younger looking than Dr. Young Guy and equally nice. He listened carefully to my litany of symptoms, made a physical exam of my back and hips, then put me through a series of bizarre exercises to determine the type and extent of my issues. He made the mistake of asking the perfectly logical question, "How far can you walk before the numbness in your leg and foot begin?"

But since I was totally tired out from all that bending and stretching and walking tippy-toe, at that point the dreaded TIRED = STUPID factor came strongly into play. Um....I don't know. It doesn't seem like very far. I'm a really rotten distance estimator

He was a very patient young man. "Just try to describe the distance the best way that you can."

Well. You know when you go into one of those huge grocery stores? And you go in the door closest to the bakery? And then you go through the produce department and past the meat and dairy and end up by the frozen pies? 

He just looked at me. I couldn't read his expression.

You know. The pies in the frozen foods section. So it would be the distance from the parking lot, through the bakery and all the way to the frozen foods. I can't even do one whole lap around the grocery story periphery.

"O-kaaaaaaay," he said. 

We were silent for a brief period. I think he didn't quite know what to make of the information that I just given him. I was glad that he didn't do a facepalm or start to laugh. What a guy.

Then he gave me his opinion: "I think what you've got going here is a ruptured disk between two of the vertebrae of your back. It's most likely between the last of the lumbar vertebrae and the first of the sacral ones." He grabbed a plastic and rubber model of the spinal column complete with spinal cord, nerves, and a conveniently herniated disk. He bent the model spine as if it were a person hunching forward, and whoa! That little blue herniated disk bulged prominently to squeeze the nerve directly behind it. It was pretty gross, actually.  It looked kind of like this illustration from the Mayo Clinic, found here.

Here's how Mayo defines my back problem:
A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine. 
A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer "jelly" pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior. 
A herniated disk can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. Continue reading here
A jelly donut. I have a ruptured jelly donut. Hm.

I'm so pathetic. This knowledge made me want to immediately drive myself over to Krispy Kreme. But I didn't. Yay me! I would have patted myself on the back but that would have hurt.

He gave me some specific exercises to do, several postures to strictly avoid, talked about the use of heat and or ice, and made a return appointment for me. "Most people can heal these disk problems without surgery or injections. I'm hoping that you can too. But we'll keep a close eye on things to make sure," he said as he handed me a stack of papers that thankfully had all of the information written on them that we had just been discussing since I was still firmly in stupid-land at that point.

Good grief. Wouldn't you know this dumb stupid back thing had to show up just as my rituximab energy is beginning to kick in?

Does anyone have a ruptured jelly donut story with a happy ending to share? As in: their disk healed itself up just fine and dandy without surgery or injections?


I could really use one of those right now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

AARDA: Autoimmunity Education Curriculum

Kudos to the AARDA (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association) for creating this autoimmune curriculum for kids and teachers. Read this, found here:

Innovative New Autoimmunity Curriculum for Elementary and Middle School Teachers

Newswise — DETROIT, April 21, 2014 – Furthering its mission of educating all Americans about autoimmunity and autoimmune disease (AD), the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA) has launched the first-of-its kind autoimmune curriculum for teachers of grades three through eight.
Working with life sciences curriculum experts from the Education Center, LLC, AARDA has developed and is making available free to elementary and middle school teachers across the United States grade-appropriate curriculum materials that align with the Common Core Standards.
“If we want all Americans to truly understand what autoimmunity is and how the autoimmune response in individuals can cause any one or more of the more than 100 known autoimmune diseases, what better way than to begin educating them at the earliest possible age,” said Virginia T. Ladd, President of AARDA. [bolding mine]
YES. Ms. Ladd is really onto something here. Accurate information presented early is the best awareness raising tool possible. Here's the video:

Information packets for grades 3 - 8 and video can be found here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Ahhh. I love holidays, but after all that celebration I am one pooped puppy. Today, I am taking time to recover. So is Lulu. See y'all tomorrow.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It Was Grand

It's funny, isn't it? Somehow a holiday is wonderful no matter where it's celebrated as long as those we love are with us. Yesterday, I learned a valuable lesson: my kids and their spouses can and did throw a fabulous holiday bash. I'm one lucky mom. 

Easter was spent attending a glorious Mass, eating delicious food, but most importantly: spending time together as a family. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Day

Gorgeous Ukrainian Easter egg found here

Have a wonderful day, everyone. See y'all tomorrow. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An E for Effort

Yummy chocolate See's bunny found here. Wonder why the ears really do taste best?

So. Today is Saturday, just one day before Easter Sunday. Which means that Lent is, for all practical purposes, over. When I was a kid, it was the day that my siblings and I would pester my Mom to allow us to dive into the stash of candy that we had saved over the previous forty days since giving up candy was about as creative as a childhood me ever got regarding a Lenten practice.

Mom refused, every time. She insisted that, "If you kids could wait for all of Lent then you can wait until Easter morning. You can put your saved up candy into your Easter basket to add to whatever the Bunny brought you."

She didn't negotiate.

My self-imposed task for this Lent was to try to be a kinder individual, which is hardly a tangible thing. Kindness isn't something that one can collect in a plastic bag in one's bedroom closet for forty days and then dump into your Sunday morning Easter basket. It's hard to measure my success in being a more kind individual ever since Ash Wednesday.

But I have tried, really I have. I think that if someone were paying attention there would be very little observable changes in my behavior, still I have been trying. I think the proof of my limited successes is evident not in what I did or said; but rather what I didn't do. Or say.

(Oh, would you just quit laughing, Terese! I'm trying to be serious here.)

Yeah. I've tried hard to bite my tongue and censor my thoughts, which is a tall order for Ms. Blabbermouth me. And I can't say that I've been completely able to do that, but I made a serious effort. I tried really hard.

And that, I think, is what Lent is really all about.

Now bring on the chocolate bunnies!

Friday, April 18, 2014

This Makes Me Happy

Having one of "those" days? Watch this. I double dog dare ya not to smile.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What a Moon

Did you see the lunar eclipse a few days ago?

I did. In spite of myself. And it was pretty awesome.

The sky was partly cloudy that evening as we waited for the moon to rise, so John and I decided that we probably wouldn't be able to see the eclipse after looking at the bank of grey clouds heading our way. As we prepared for bed, I went around the house lowering the window shades and glanced out to the eastern sky.

Whoa. When did all the clouds roll away? I thought. It was a crystal clear night out there! And the moon was a gorgeous perfect pale white circle. I couldn't possibly go to sleep knowing that the eclipse was going to take place right over our heads. John told me that he was going to be able to sleep through it all perfectly well, thank you very much. So I smooched him good-night and began to think about the best place to view it all.

Turns out that the southeast window up in the Bearded Dog Pub -- AKA as my son's old bedroom repurposed into a billiards/darts/foosball room -- was perfect. I thought that I'd just plunk my hinder down onto one of the pub chairs to simply watch and wait. Just relax and take all this celestial beauty in, I told myself. But then I had the thought that this was a prime opportunity to take pictures...

See? Pointing squarely at the moon. Perfect for eclipse-watching. If it's night time, that is....

What followed was about three trips up and down the stairs collecting the camera, and tripod, and additional lenses, and...whew. I took a breather on one of the pub stools and was glad that I had another whole hour before the thing actually started. While I was sitting on the stool, it occurred to me that the recliner across the room would be far more comfortable, since I anticipated sitting for quite awhile while I watched, so I dragged the thing over to the window after pulling the pub table and chairs out of the way. I sank down into the cushions and decided that this was indeed a perfect chair in which to spend a few hours stargazing.

But......dang. That darned window screen would really mess up the pictures, I thought. I briefly thought about waking up John to ask him to muscle the thing out of there but thought that surely I could figure it out. After what seemed like forever, I had loosened the connectors and had the screen off the window and inside the house. I was tired but quite pleased with myself as I sat back down yet again, certain that I could really relax and quietly watch the sky show.

After a few minutes, I remembered hearing that NASA had put something up online about live streaming the eclipse from one of California's observatories for people that couldn't see it in person. How cool would it be to watch it on my computer AND in person? I marveled.

I staggered back down and up the steps to retrieve my laptop. And then made another trip for the power cord. I brought up the NASA site which was indeed live streaming amazing moon pictures.

Whew. It's hard work relaxing in front of this window! I told Lulu, who was trotting along with me up and down the stairs. I mopped my sweaty face with the hem of my nightgown and decided that it was time to put the camera on the tripod and take a few practice pictures.

I put Canon into his manual mode and started to change the iso and f-stop settings. And because I had completely pooped myself out chasing all over the house for the past hour, had tripped the TIRED = STUPID switch. I couldn't for the life of me remember how to do any of those things, and my pictures definitely were not what I had hoped for.

Good grief. To my eye, the moon was crisp and clear. Didn't translate that way for my camera. 

Sigh. One more trip downstairs for the owner's manual for the camera. Gee. I think those chew marks on this book were made by our very first schnauzer, Bart. Awww. good old Bartie. I miss that doggie boy...

By this time even though I had all the information I could possibly need literally at the tips of my fingers, none of it made sense. I sat back in my recliner totally bathed in perspiration and quivery from head to toe, tossed the manual aside and finally took some time to actually look out the stinkin' window.

Wowsers. It was awesome. By this time the earth's shadow had moved about halfway across the face of the moon. I looked over to my computer and was awed by the fabulous images that were on NASA's website. I watched transfixed as the eclipse progressed. Just as the moon was completely eclipsed and I could just begin to see the orange-red hue begin, suddenly everything disappeared from the sky.

What the heck?! Ah. The bank of clouds had returned, I discovered. At the worst possible moment. I pulled my laptop closer and noticed with dismay that the images had disappeared from their website as well! Drat. "We're having problems with our feed," announced a woman online. A series of still images began to appear instead of live footage. But what stunning images they were:

Image found here

I reasoned that I was fortunate to have seen any of the eclipse at all, and so I waited to see if the clouds would part once again. No such luck. But at least the series of pictures from NASA continued to roll by, each more beautiful than the next.

A light breeze drifted through the screen-less window. I took a deep breath of the cool night air, looked up into the dark starless sky and suddenly felt.........very, very small in comparison to the cosmos.

Were you able to see the blood moon?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love Those Neutrophils

Guys. Good news!

Dr. Young Guy has ordered weekly CBCs with a white blood cell differential after my rituximab infusions, since my last cycle about a year ago caused my neutrophils to drop to dangerously low levels.

My neutros have been skimming along just with enough to be considered normal, until today. Today's numbers came back a happy and healthy 3.71 (normals 1.80-8.30 x10(9)/L).

Woo hoo!

I was out running a few errands when the email notifying me that my lab results were available. Thank goodness for my iPhone. I was able to log into my account at the clinic and see the CBC numbers right there in the grocery store. Yessss. I love technology.

I felt a happy rush of adrenaline; so I zipped through the check out lane, hopped into Goldie, and zoomed around town spending far too much moolah and -- more importantly -- all of my energy reserves; which left me pooped out on the couch for the remainder of the day. Yeah. Pooped out but with a big grin on my face. Let the mouse energy curve begin, people!

See y'all tomorrow.