Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bad Gayle!

Bad Gayle, indeed!  I had my hand slapped when I saw my doctor on Friday, because I had made the command decision to quit wearing that gawd-awful immobilizing brace 24/7.

I first quit wearing it to bed last Tuesday, (it had been four long weeks already) because I hadn't had a decent night's sleep since the first time I put in on.  And I had a good night's sleep that first night - only good dreams instead of bad ones (that what usually denotes how well I sleep!)!  I did, at least, double bandage the knee at night for a little extra support.  (Good Gayle)

I had already cut down on the time I was wearing it to when I was walking the pup or working outside in the garden.  So after a couple more days, I decided to simply quit altogether.

Then Dr. B walking in the exam room and said "where's your brace?"  In my bedroom!  So he proceeded to say please, please wear it, and he told me why.

The knee was so damaged, there is minimal blood flow to the incision area.  And it's the blood flow that helps the healing.  New blood vessels are growing toward the incision, and if I bend the knee, I can break them down and delay healing even further.  So, OK, I'll wear the damned thing.  But not to bed!

He did praise me for the good care I was taking of the wound, and said it'll only be a few more weeks, or months.  But wear the brace.

On that note, I decided to go take pictures of flowers!  It may not seem like spring in many parts of the country, but it surely is here!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Pat's Day!

Green rivers in Chicago and San Antonio, and green beer and margaritas - who could want more?

I want more - I want my knee to heal!  Two weeks have passed, VERY slowly, since the infection was diagnosed in the ruptured incision.  I can see that it is getting better every day, but it's gonna take forever!  

Dr. B smiles now when he sees it - like today - and confirms that I'm making good progress.  And acknowledges that it'll probably be another 6 or 8 weeks before it's time to start rehab again, before the incision is closed up safe and tight.

I'm going to go nuts by then!  The leg immobilizing brace is so bloody uncomfortable!  I'm supposed to be wearing it 24/7, but...  I leave it off most of the day - after all, I've been walking pretty much straight-legged for over a year now - but I do put it on when I'm out walking the pup, or watering the garden, and in bed (which is the worst!!).  Hard-headed but not dumb!!

I really shouldn't complain.  It's five weeks since the surgery, and I've had no pain to speak of.  It just aches a little.  And the knee itself is skinnier than it's been in years - it actually has some shape to it for the first time in a long, long time!

But our weather has been so spectacular - warmest winter on record for Tucson - and I wish I could be out playing in the dirt!  But even my hard head knows it probably isn't a good idea for me to be getting down on the ground and trying to get up again!

Thankfully, my unbelievably sweet neighbor Richard has been taking good care of my posies, so they are loving the weather too!  As you can see from these couple pictures!  

Love that my poinsettia is finally coming to color!  It's so grand that it has survived a summer and winter and is flowering!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's no fun if it's easy!

But once - just once, I'd like to try the easy way!

I tried to tell it - I warned it - I said if it didn't quit hurting . . .

The poor left knee, the one that was so busted up in that car accident so long ago, the one that had 5 or 6 surgeries in the 5 or 6 years after the accident, the one that was a complete piece of shit for the last 40 years - it refused to listen.

I'd relied on cortisone shots for years, but the last one didn't help at all.  I asked the doc for another one and he said if it didn't work last time, it won't work this time.  Damn.  So we took an x-ray, back in June or July last year, and sure enough - the thing was completely shot.  As if I didn't know that!  

Hurt like an S.O.B - I had no choice but to start using my cane again, and even that barely kept me upright.  I had vowed to have NO MORE OPERATIONS, but I eventually admitted I had no choice at all.

This is all history - I've mentioned most of it previously.  Next came two docs who refused to operate on me.  The 5 or 6 prior surgeries left too much scar tissue, too much damage, and not much of a chance for success.  Finally, my rheumatologist suggested an orthopedic surgeon who is the go-to guy among the local orthopods with problem cases.  That's me - the problem case!

I was totally impressed with the man, his operation, his staff and his attitude!  When I met him, I told him that I would understand if he didn't want anything to do with me.  He told me it was a very risky operation, for the reasons mentioned above, and that the chance of some skin dying - necrosis - was very likely, because there simply was not an ample blood supply to the damaged knee area. . .meaning possibly a skin graft at some later date.  But he was confident that he could make it better than it was.

On February 11th, I had a total knee replacement.  Dr. B used a Stryker Thriathlon System knee.  

When he visited me the next morning, he told me that I was the 'worst close' he'd ever performed.  My skin was so thin, it tore like 'wet rice paper' if they just touched it.  He'd never worked with anything so fragile.  I mentioned that I'd warned him!  I asked how the knee was - he just looked at me, and said 'you didn't have a knee!'  But he was still confident that it would be good!

The staff started me immediately on a CPM machine  - continuous passive motion machine.  That's the thingy that gently bends the knee to keep it healthy and moving...early rehab!  This was really fun (NOT!) - three times a day for two hours each time.  In the hospital, that meant 4 a.m., 2 p.m. and  Yes, I said 4 a.m.  They wake you to strap you into the weird machine and then say - just go back to sleep.  Surely you jest?! 

Then, because it was so pleasant already, the nurse set the degree of flex too high - up to ninety degrees.  The notes in the file said ninety degrees was the goal for a month out because of the fragility of the knee.  The pain almost blew me out the window!  Then, as they hurried to get me out of the machine, they caught the catheter drain line and yanked the catheter out of me.  That was pleasant too, and is, understandably not the recommended method of removal!

Are we having fun yet?

I was scheduled to have the catheter pulled the next day, so they suggested not putting it back in.  I less than politely refused.  That was another adventure - it took two nurses to reinsert the damned thing, and I know now that I'll never do that again while I'm awake!

As I have probably mentioned in previous dialogues of surgeries and pain meds, I lose complete control of my bladder when I'm on pain meds.  This has only developed in the last few years - probably a result of 50 odd operations and way too much anesthesia and too many pain meds.  It's totally embarrassing, but there's not a damned thing I can do about it. 
Amazingly, Dr. B was familiar with the problem.  No one else I've ever told about it has heard of such a thing.  He called it opioid incontinence, and that's one of those 'too bad' situations.  I can take pain meds and pee all over the floor, or I can not take pain meds and grit my teeth against the pain.
So the day after surgery, I quit taking pain meds.  It took six days to get the shit out of my system enough that I didn't pee uncontrollably!  Another reason to say NO MORE OPERATIONS! 

Other than those few little hiccups, the staff of the hospital was overall very good.  The food was another story.  It wasn't just bad, it was awful!  If it wasn't for a tiny little cup of fresh strawberries (2) and blackberries (2) each morning, there were no veggies to speak of all day long.  It was pretty much all carbs with some unrecognizable meat thrown in.  Thank heavens for friends!  Richard brought me some sugar snap peas one evening, and another day a Carl's Jr hamburger with jalapenos that tasted heavenly!

The operation was on the 11th, and I came home on the 14th - very nice Valentines Day present!  My poor little Misha was ecstatic to see me.  Richard took really good care of her while I was away, but she wanted nothing more than to sit in the window, looking and waiting for me! 

My pal Lizzie was here waiting for me, and, bless her heart, fed me and made me comfy and very happy to be home! Of course, I was still peeing all over everything, so we did a lot of laundry, but it was still great to sleep in my own bed!

Sleep in my own bed, with a CPM machine for company.  Still doing three two-hour stints on it every day, but at hours of my own choosing!

I was doing the Warfarin blood thinner thing with twice weekly blood tests, wearing those gawdawful TED hose and started physical therapy.

The therapists and I did not see eye to eye on this rehab stuff.  They obviously know the basics of what needs to be done, but they didn't know what they were dealing with, with my busted up body.  And they wouldn't listen to me.  So one exercise they insisted I do (if I had a brain, I simply would have refused!) has left my (crushed) right ankle in more pain than I've had for years.  Another hurt my rebuilt left hip and left me gimpier than when I started.  So I've quit going to PT.  At least at that facility.
My very sweet girlfriend Pam, from days way gone by (Jr High School), was kind enough (foolish enough?) to come play nurse and look after me.  Boy, can that girl cook - I ate like royalty while she was here, and loved every bite.  She made ice bags, and more ice bags, and lectured me when I was a little too enthusiastic about moving around, and was a godsend!  I wouldn't have made it without her!

Two weeks after the surgery, we went in to get the staples pulled.  It took 34 staples and numerous sutures to close up this incision, and it's really not happy.  I look at that picture and remember that once my legs won contests!  That's surely days gone by!!

I begged Dr. B to let me take off the TED hose...hate them!!  He wanted me to wear them for six weeks - I said four.  I guess I can live for two more weeks.  :o)

I asked if it was OK if I started driving. He seemed to think it was OK - right leg does all the work.  I said he probably should know that I drive a Mustang, with a manual transmission.  He just looked at the floor and shook his head.

Unfortunately, now the troubles have started.  (Remember, it's no fun if it's easy?!!)  The incision is so . . . hate to keep using the word fragile, but that's what it is.  Even just tiny amounts of bend (flex) would break it open, and it would leak.  And was getting worse.  I finally went in to the doc to have him take a look. 

Not good.  It has opened up in a couple places, and a bit of infection has set in.  So now I'm wearing a brace, to keep the leg straight - no bending at all!  And it's bandaged - I clean it daily and re-bandage it.  And I get to sleep in the bloody thing!  Not that I'm sleeping - I thought I was uncomfortable before!  Ha!  But at least it's smelling better!

We, Dr. B and I, are not really concerned about it, yet.  We knew that it was problematic.  So far, there has been no sign of necrosis.  We just have to watch it closely.  I go back in on Monday for a check-up.

Meanwhile, I'm off the blood thinners, and because of the ridiculous leg brace, I could get rid of the TED hose too, since there was no way to wear it with all the other stuff!!

The only other sad thing is that the wonderful hernia repair I had last fall has pulled loose.  It might be a coincidence, but all my favorite cop shows (especially Leroy Jethro Gibbs and NCIS) say they don't believe in coincidences.  A couple days after I started on the CPM machine, the 'passive motion' machine, I was feeling trouble in my belly.  I would describe it as - you know the sound it makes when you pull velcro apart??  that's what it felt like.  And now I have a big pooch down in my lower belly again.  And as you may recall - the doctor said we could never go back in there again because there was so little usable tissue, after all the TRAM-flap ridiculousness.  But I just can't think about that right now  Hurts too, though.  As I've said, probably ad nauseum, I fix one thing and two more go wrong.  Gets old.

But overall, my humor is terrific.  The knee was less swollen immediately after the surgery than it has been for years!  I was walking without aid in less than two weeks and it felt wonderful.  Now if the incision would just close up...

Think good thoughts, please!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

some help for lymphedema sufferers

Lymphedema - my friends know how much I hate this nasty affliction.  It has been made even more frustrating by the fact that our medical insurance community has chosen to ignore that it is a chronic and debilitating medical condition requiring continuing daily care.  Insurance has not paid for any help since the year after I was first diagnosed.  

Two years ago, the Susan B Komen Foundation funded a replacement sleeve for me, but they were not able to help out.  My expensive compression sleeves are almost threadbare. 

Today I received an email from dear friend Lizzie who ran across a website that helps women like me.  Please feel free to pass it around!!

Can’t Afford Lymphedema Sleeves?

Are you or do you know a breast cancer survivor?  Please read today’s post and pass it on.  If you can’t afford to purchase a lymphedema sleeve, gauntlet, and/or glove, and you can’t manage your post-mastectomy swelling, Crickett’s Answer and LympheDIVAs want to help.

Today, I am pleased to announce a NEW opportunity for breast cancer survivors who have had a mastectomy and/or axillary dissection of the lymph nodes due to breast cancer and have swelling of one or both arms but cannot afford the $200-$500+ cost for two sets of the compression sleeves and gauntlets that survivors with lymphedema must wear every day to keep the swelling in check.

Although lymphedema sleeves are medically necessary, they are not covered by Medicare OR most insurance plans under current law, and thousands of survivors go without the sleeves, needlessly suffering congestion, swelling, and pain that interferes with their normal activities.

Crickett’s Answer, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in memory of Crickett Julius, has just joined forces with LympheDIVAs to help other breast cancer survivors who fight not just the beast that is breast cancer but also the fallout of side effects that includes lymphedema, which may limit survivors’ activities.  By working together, they are now able to provide needed lymphedema sleeves and gauntlets to women who need them but cannot afford them out-of-pocket or convince their insurance companies to pay for them.  They do this in honor and memory of their loved ones.
Crickett Julius
Crickett Julius survived breast cancer only four months, but her mother and cousin are dedicated to helping other women enjoy their life post-diagnosis through Crickett’s Answer, a 501(c)3 organization that provides wigs, mastectomy products, oncology/mastectomy/ lymphedema massage, facials, and other pampering services as a way to help women feel feminine and beautiful after losing their hair and/or breasts.
Rachel Troxell
LympheDIVAs was founded by Rachel Troxell and Robin Miller, friends and breast cancer survivors who wanted to create a more elegant and comfortable compression sleeve.  Rachel continued to build the company during her later recurrence.  Even though she died two years ago, at the age of 37, her father, mother, and brother continue to grow the company in her honor and in the hope that LympheDIVAs’ compression apparel will continue to inspire breast cancer survivors everywhere to feel as beautiful, strong, and confident as Rachel was.

To ask for help, please download and complete the forms at Crickett’s Answer, writing in “lymphedema sleeve and gauntlet” on page 2 of the application.

To help someone else, please copy and paste this post on your blog or email it to a friend (or your local cancer center!).
To donate, go here.

To help change the law so that this medical garment is covered by cancer survivors’ insurance, stay tuned for more about the Lymphedema Treatment Act when it is reintroduced in the 2011 Congress.
Because of these women, these three thirty-something women who didn’t ask to get breast cancer, and the men and women who love them, there is now help for women who can’t afford lymphedema sleeves, a medically necessary garment not typically covered by insurance.  Their legacy lives on.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yummy time of year!

So much for keeping the blog up to date.  My bad. 

The weather in Southern Arizona has been so spectacular up until now that I've spent every moment I could out playing in the dirt.  

But yesterday I gave in and took some pictures of my flowers, since we're expecting a freeze tonight, and they might not be smiling so much tomorrow!

Meanwhile, of course, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and of course I took in some strays and made yummy in the kitchen!!

Here's our menu!

The Maple Glazed Turkey with Date and Port Sauce has been one of my favorite recipes for the holidays for years.

I brined the little devil (big devil!) overnight with Hawaiian Sea Salt, Turbinado Raw Sugar, Tarragon and Thyme.  About a cup each of salt and sugar in enough water to cover the birdie in a big trashbag, squished up to get most of the air out.  

Then ...

Maple Glazed Turkey
with dates and port sauce

5 T olive oil
2 lbs chicken wings
3 C chopped onions
1 ½ C chopped carrots
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 C port (I used half-half red port and good port)
4 C chicken stock
12 lrg dates, chopped

1 - 17 lb. Turkey, thawed, giblets removed
½ C maple syrup
½ C shallots, chopped
1 T fresh tarragon

Heat 1 T oil in large pot over high heat. Add chicken wings and brown, about 20 minutes. Add onions and carrots and saute til brown, about 10 minutes. Add thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf. Add port and boil til reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 ½ hours. Strain into sauce pan. Boil until reduced to 1 ¼ C. Add dates, cover and simmer 2 minutes.

Place turkey in large roasting pan. Mix maple syrup, shallots, tarragon and remaining 4 T oil in small boil. Brush over the bird. Let stand for one hour.  Brush any remaining maple syrup sauce over him again.

Bake at 325, about 15 minutes per pound. Spoon sauce over turkey, slice and serve, with extra sauce on the side as gravy.

He was melt in your mouth sweet and juicy, and the skin was to savor like candy!!  Don't trust the little pop-up thingy.  Go for about 165 degrees in the breast meat so he doesn't dry out.

That recipe works great with game hens too - gorgeous presentation!  You would cook them for about 45 minutes at 425.  Big game hens - the ones that COSTCO carries!!

A couple days later I made a great 'clean the refrigerator' soup out of the left-over gravy and broth from cooking up the giblets, turkey of course, chopped up turkey and apple sausage, leftover green bean casserole and some barley, kidney beans and macaroni pasta, and spicy Rotel tomatoes!  

Love hearty soups on a dreary winter day!!

Now Christmas is fast approaching, so with help from my so very sweet neighbor Richard, I hung my outside Christmas lights before the rains hit last night!

Now it's time to think about decorating inside the house, since it's too nasty to go outside!  

At least according to Ms Misha, who doesn't like to get her feet wet!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Fun Facts About Halloween

In America, Halloween is a major holiday celebrated by millions of adults and children. This spooky holiday is best known for costumes, trick-or-treating, parties and scary movies. And with its long history, there are many interesting and fun facts about Halloween.

Halloween History

In American pioneer days, Halloween was a harvest festival with corn-popping, taffy pulls and hayrides. The addition of ghosts, witches and trick-or-treating came about over time until the holiday evolved to the creepy celebration we have today.
Many modern Halloween traditions are rooted in Celtic history and came to America with Irish immigrants in the late nineteenth century. Although Halloween traditions have also evolved from other places including Roman, Catholic and Native American cultures.
Ancient celts believed that All Hallows Eve, or what we call Halloween, was a time when the ghosts walked among the living. They wore costumes so ghosts and ghouls would not recognize them as humans.


Pumpkins originated in Central America 9,000 years ago and may be America’s oldest known vegetables. They were brought back to Europe by early American explorers, where they quickly became popular.
Though pumpkins are usually orange, they can also be white, blue or green. Unusually colored pumpkins can make interesting, eye-catching Jack-o-lanterns.
Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns traces back to an Irish tradition; in Ireland, however, they were originally carved from turnips, beets or large potatoes.


The word “witch” comes from the Old Saxon word “wica,” which means “wise one.” Witches were originally respected for their knowledge of medicinal herbs and charms, but claims of spell-casting and trouble-making were spread to discredit them.
Black cats were thought to be familiars that protected witches’ magical powers. They were also believed to help witches perform spells or even be the witches themselves in disguise.

Halloween Monsters

Vampires are popular in fiction, but there are also vampire societies and clubs where people celebrate vampirism and actually believe that they are vampires.
The name “Frankenstein” is often given to a popular monster from Mary Shelley’s book of the same name. However, in the book, Frankenstein is the name of the mad scientist, not the monster he created.
Werewolf legends show up in many different cultures around the world. It was once thought that werewolves could be recognized in their human forms by traits like a unibrow, excessive body hair and an unusually long third finger.

Halloween Candy

On average, three quarters of the candy brought home by trick-or-treaters is some form of chocolate. Lollipops and hard candy are the next most popular with those who hand out candy.
According to the National Confectioners Association, 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced in a single year. Though candy corn is most commonly found during Halloween, some manufacturers make candy corn in different color schemes for other major holidays.

The Animal Rescue Site
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