My goodness I am so very tired. A side effect of the radiation that might last up to three months. So I am trying to go with the flow… Radiation seems to have lowered my immunity and I came down with yet another cold while in Ireland. All the same, I’m so happy we went!
One amazing positive thing has happened since my ovaries were removed: I haven’t had a migraine since the surgery. It may be too soon to jump for joy but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and keeping a small supply of Zomig on hand, just in case.
After my second dose of radiation on a Wednesday we hopped on the plane to Ireland. I slept most of the trip over, the first time I ever fell asleep on a jet. We arrived first thing Thursday morning, Ireland time, and after the hellos we both took a nap. When we came downstairs we had lunch and then Larisa and I walked Katherine to her afternoon Montessori school. It felt so good to stretch my legs and breathe in the fresh air.
On Friday Katherine skipped school and Tim, Larisa and I took her to Fota Wildlife Park in Carrigtwohill, County Cork. I think I will save most of the animal pictures to pair with quotes but will share a few here.
Ubiquitous in Ireland: brown sugar for your tea; greenery; unheated bathrooms; sinks with two faucets, one for cold and one for hot; sheep; and rooks. A rook is “a gregarious Eurasian crow with black plumage and a bare face, nesting in colonies in treetops.” Of course one found me and insisted on telling me its story. 🙂
Well, I have to say that it wasn’t the Thanksgiving trip and visit I was envisioning, but I did find the love in it. As luck would have it, half an hour into the ride I got a sore throat. And it would not turn out to be a little episode of scratchiness announcing a common cold, but rather developed into the worst sore throat I’ve had since I had mononucleosis thirty years ago. (Is it possible to get that twice?) And no one else got sick!
There are bad times But that’s OK Just look for love in it Don’t burn the day away
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫
A few relatives recommended “Throat Coat” as a remedy, so Tim went out to find some for me. It did help my throat a little for an hour or so at a time. But it took me a few days to figure out that it was also triggering the migraines that kept starting for no other apparent reason. When I stopped the “Throat Coat” they disappeared. So I went back to my green tea and honey.
Thankfully everyone else seemed to be having a good time and I enjoyed watching the goings-on while curled up in a corner of the living room. When I retreated to the bedroom I received frequent visitors, including nine-year-old Khari who was especially sympathetic and attentive. He’s such a thoughtful little guy! And of course Fran was spoiling me by cooking special dishes to accommodate my wheat-free, milk-free, hormone-free diet. The rice stuffing with dates, chestnuts and figs was extra delicious, even if it did hurt to swallow it!
This is now the eighth day of this monster cold virus… throat is improving, but I still have three huge canker sores on my tongue and my voice is still very hoarse. Tucked in at home now with tea, honey, laptop and Tim.
I’ve had a “background” headache since July 8. It’s making me crazy, lurking around under the surface, waiting for a chance to break through and incapacitate. One dose of Zomig left to last me until the prescription can be refilled on August 7. I rail against insurance corporations, who think they have more right to decide what a patient needs than her doctor does. And who think $60 a month is a fair co-payment for six doses of a needed drug.
Appointment to see sympathetic doctor on Monday. Keeping my fingers crossed… Woke up this morning, head still stabbing. Should I beg my sister to give me some of her Zomig? We’ve helped each other out in the past. There have been times when I’ve only needed as little as one dose for a whole month. I call and put her on standby. Sisters understand…
Lately I’ve heard what I think is a very misleading commercial for Excedrin Migraine. While it can work sometimes, I don’t see how they can dare to guarantee that it will always work in half an hour. It might, perhaps half the time. And that bit about being #1 recommended by neurologists is hogwash. The first thing a neurologist will insist on is that you stop using Excedrin because people wind up taking it daily in increasingly futile attempts to treat rebound headaches. When Excedrin Migraine first came out I checked the label and it’s the same acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine that is in regular Excedrin. Do they think we’re really so gullible? Or were my parents unique in teaching me to read labels thoroughly before taking any medication?
Caffeine. Well, I’m weaned from it for almost four years now so maybe it will work? Worth a try? I made myself a cup of black coffee and took my ibuprofen, which works better than acetaminophen or aspirin for this patient. It worked, for the most part. I can still feel the headache wanting to materialize. Maybe this will be a stopgap measure to keep most of the pain manageable until Monday so I won’t have to raid my dear sister’s stash. Still, I should probably get my eyes away from the computer screen to be on the safe side.
Pondering my predicament. I’ve been so careful to avoid triggers. “Why is this happening?” I cried out to Tim Sunday night, utterly frustrated. Slowly gathering my wits about me. I connect a few dots and recall that hormonal fluctuations are my biggest triggers and they (along with fluctuations in atmospheric pressure) I simply cannot control. Now I think this is perhaps some sort of menopausal last hurrah.
If you want to know where your power really is, you need look no further than the processes of your body that you’ve been taught to dismiss, deny, or be afraid of. These include the menstrual cycle, labor, and, the mother of all wake-up calls, menopause. The years surrounding menopause are a time when most women find themselves in a crucible, having all the dross of the first half of their lives burned away so that they may emerge reborn and more fully themselves. Menopause can be likened to adolescence in reverse – the same stormy emotions we experienced during puberty often return, urging us to complete the unfinished business of our early years.
~ Christiane Northrup
(Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical & Emotional Health & Healing)
I remember reading somewhere that the way a child handles the emotional work of toddler-hood will be the same way she handles the emotional work of adolescence. And now, adolescence in reverse. The mother of all wake-up calls. Must be what this nightmare is all about. A crucible. A month-long hot flash. Unfinished business. I wonder…
This morning I found a quote that spoke to me…
Everyone confesses in the abstract that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us all; but practically most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstances drive him to do. Even I would not write this article were not the publication-day hard on my heels. I should read Hawthorne and Emerson and Holmes, and dream in my armchair, and project in the clouds those lovely unwritten stories that curl and veer and change like mist-wreaths in the sun.
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
(Household Papers & Stories)
I have so many lovely unwritten stories. I need more exercise. I feel lazy writing this, I “should” be doing more to help with the elder-care or even doing my own chores. I think we all feel unmotivated or overwhelmed at times, but that’s not laziness in my way of looking at things. But do I really believe my own assertions about this, deep down inside? Harriet Beecher Stowe includes “everyone.” Somehow that comforts me to know that others need incentives to get certain things done, too.
And now, as I write this, a song comes up on my iPod playlist shuffle. Still can’t listen to it without crying…
Now, I’m sailing on back, ready for the long haul
Tossed by the winds and the seas
I’ll drag them all down to hell and I’ll stand them at the wall
I’ll sell them to their enemies
I’m trying to feed my soul with thought
Going to sleep off the rest of the day
~ Bob Dylan
♫ (Working Man’s Blues #2) ♫
It’s been a very long haul since Dad first fell in 2000. It’s getting harder and harder. And Auntie is needing more and more attention, too. Sometimes I think having to deal with menopause while caring for my elders is a double whammy and has made me more impatient and persistently irritable.
I’m tired!!! So often I “sleep off the rest of the day.” So often I fail to “feed my soul with thought.” I don’t have enough energy for elder-care and the “stormy emotions” of menopause!
Okay. That’s enough self-pity for one day. This too will pass, right?
Yesterday the first muggy day of the season arrived, and with it, not surprisingly, a humidity-triggered migraine. As I thanked the Universe and Science for Zomig nasal spray, I turned on the air conditioner and then shot the potion up my nose and snuggled up on the couch to rest while it worked its Magic.
So much for zipping through my chores to spend an afternoon in the blogosphere!
But I mustn’t complain!
Migraine had been the center of my life since early childhood. And since I had colic and some scientists think colic (and motion-sickness, too) is a form of migraine, I suspect I could quite honestly claim that migraine has plagued me since infancy. The only sustained relief I had until four years ago was during my pregnancies. Turns out progesterone quite nicely cancels out the estrogen dominance factor that is my strongest migraine trigger.
Finally at the age of 49, my sister, who also suffers from this neurological disorder, as did both of our parents, dragged me to a neurologist and for the first time in my life I came away from a doctor with some effective tools – three different drugs – two for prevention and the Zomig to abort the headaches that break through that line of defense. Believe me, I had already tried just about every natural remedy under the sun, and badly wished that one of them would have worked for me.
Some choices are difficult, trying to weigh the various factors. When I run the air conditioner it bothers my conscience. But the Zomig is so powerful that it causes liver damage and I’m only allowed six doses a month. So I can’t just run around recklessly ignoring my triggers and taking Zomig every day. One must always pay the piper, one way or another. So the air conditioner is on and I will obsessively keep my eye on the dew point from now until late in the fall. Any chance to open the windows on a relatively dry day I will seize!!!
Sometimes it’s still frustrating being the one who succumbs to anything my hyper-sensitive nerve metabolism senses in the environment to be a trigger. I often feel like I’m walking around on eggshells. Too many triggers to list here – some I can avoid, some I cannot. Zomig is for those. It has given me much more of a life than I had before!
Took a quick look at the calendar as I recorded yesterday’s dose – nine days since the last dose. Pretty good! It’s not all that bad living in a bubble of sorts, keeping the menacing triggers “out there.” And if I tire of the great indoors I can hop in the car and go down to the beach, where the humidity doesn’t seem to collect and settle, and breathe in the healing energy of the sea.
The following thoughts about mammograms are completely subjective, as I try to process my third false alarm from one of these images. If this keeps happening it will be ever more tempting to abandon the practice of getting one every year. Yes, mammograms are supposed to be responsible for saving countless lives, but I cannot help wondering how many other lives have been repeatedly thrown into a tailspin by one false alarm after another.
My mother’s breast cancer was found “early” on a mammogram in the autumn of 1987 and was thought to have been caught in time so that a lumpectomy would be all that was needed. Three and a half years later, after the lumpectomy, and then a mastectomy, and many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she died in the spring of 1991, age 59. It was awful for all of us, including her elderly parents. This family history seems to make my doctors hyper-vigilant about any possible little thing seen on my mammograms.
In the autumn of 1995 I had my first suspicious mammogram at the age of 38. I froze with fear until an ultrasound was done and it was determined that it was “just a cyst.” I was told that I have fibrocystic breast disease. After doing some research and seeing a naturopath, I began taking evening primrose oil for help with the cysts and it seemed to work for a several years. Eventually I tapered off from taking it… and then… in the spring of 2008… another suspicious mammogram. But this time there was a cluster of calcifications that called for closer inspection with a stereotactic biopsy – outpatient surgery. This time the wait for test results was longer, and the surgeon left a little piece of titanium in my breast for future reference, to show where the tissue had been removed, just in case. We rearranged vacation plans and sat on pins and needles until the negative results came back, four days later. Phew!
Well, now less than two years later still another suspicious mammogram to panic over. This time I was told there was something there about 2 cm in diameter and I was scheduled for an ultrasound and then a surgical consult. This sounded pretty ominous and so our lives have been unsettled and on hold again.
Monday I went in for the ultrasound and a very kind technician pulled up my digital mammogram on the computer monitor to see what it was she would be examining. I could see the little speck of titanium and I asked her to point out to me the new trouble spot. She pointed to an oval-shaped object and as I focused on it I noticed there were two other ovals nearby in the image. So, I asked her what about that particular oval was a cause for concern. Something about a defined edge, but the other two ovals seemed to have edges that looked just as defined to my untrained eyes.
Well, it turned out to be “just a cyst, and not even a solid one.” That’s it??? All these rattled nerves and a week of sleepless nights for a benign cyst??? My reaction has been a dazed combination of relief and exasperation. There’s got to be a better way. On the way home I asked Tim to stop at a store where I picked up some more evening primrose oil. Maybe it will work again. Tim made all the phone calls to the kids and my sister so they could stop worrying and I took a long nap. Tuesday I started to get, not surprisingly, a post-stress migraine, so I took a Zomig and slept most of the day. Today the wind is howling and the rain is coming down heavy – perfect weather for another nap. Maybe it will take a week of afternoon naps to recover from a week of sleepless nights, but eventually I’ve got to get myself together again and carry on and somehow be willing to submit to still another mammogram next year… Just in case…