Monday, April 11, 2011

March 2011 wrap up

March started in much the same vein as February ended, as the nearly continuous migraine I'd had at the end of the month continued. Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn't able to do much when the girls attended a show for some of Eden's artwork, held by our friend Sara at the Launch Pad gallery - I pretty much just ran down there after class, and Eden sent me home after taking one look at me. Can't blame her at all for that, as I was quite out of sorts, but I had been hoping to be more effective in lending a hand. I ended up spending the day at home, marginally functional, but still getting some things done - mostly just starting to scan some of the older photos that my mother had recently helped me find, though I'm afraid that I didn't make too very much of a dent in the task.

20110305-Snack 320110305-DuckedOn the plus side, I did get a bit of a break on the 5th, as the pain finally broke, and the queasiness that I'd been wading through toned down to the point that I actually felt like getting out of the house on my own. I took advantage of the time by heading up to the Ridgefield wildlife refuge just a few miles north of us, which definitely helped bolster my already pleasant mood.

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My head went back to being a bit iffy the following day, but remained close enough to functional to prompt me to at least take a walk in the woods near our house, while Eden and Cassie headed out for the annual Portland Yarn Crawl. In the end, we both had a lot of fun, although I'm afraid I was forced back inside after only an hour or so.

Monday, the 7th, was a big ticket day - my intake appointment for the VA finally arrived. Eden and I actually spent a bit more than 2 hours at the new East Clinic, clocking in at about 45 minutes apiece of face time with a nurse and then the nurse practitioner assigned to me, running through a boatload of interview questions to try to determine exactly what I've been experiencing and what's been tried. Nothing resembling definite answers yet, of course, but at least we got things started, and I had a huge batch of tests ordered.

The 8th was another big landmark, though for a different reason, as it marked our second anniversary. The gods saw fit to be relatively kind to me on this occasion, and kept my symptoms within a relatively manageable range, although there was enough moisture in the air that Eden's arthritis symptoms we acting up and making her feel not so very good. We ended up heading through Cannon Beach, Manzanita, and Nehalem, then went back north to Oswald West, with me driving the whole way! It may not sound like much, and admittedly I was popping ibuprofen and ginger candy the whole way, but this was the first trip that we'd taken in at least 6 months where I was able to drive the entire time, instead of being forced to tap out and have Eden drive. According to Eden, that felt like a great anniversary present all by itself. Even with various symptoms, we had a really great time, and met a few wonderfully dynamic dogs along the way. We finished up the evening back in Cannon Beach, taking in a tasty dinner at Mo's, then heading home just after sunset.
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The 9th was another surprisingly productive day. I woke up relatively early, and decided to head back to the Vancouver branch of the VA to get various bloodwork done, since I hadn't eaten in the last 12 hours. Surprise, surprise, they wanted a urinalysis as well, so I ended up having to stick around an extra couple of hours. The topic of disability had come up in talking with the local family at a number of points (I think I'm going to have to separate out some thoughts on the subject in a separate post, and so won't go into it here), so I decided to head over and see about getting an idea of where I stand. It turns out that the Jinkampo incinerator that was being operated not half a mile from where Jessie and I lived on base was putting out some really bad stuff, including dioxins similar to those found in Agent Orange, and there may be some connection between it and my increasingly bad health - according to some of the groups that have formed to pursue the matter legally, I'm not doing as bad as some, but who knows what's down the road? In the end, I actually started the process of filing a claim for disability investigation through the local VFW - don't know if it'll go anywhere, but we'll see.

The test results from that trip were actually fairly interesting - apparently I'm low on potassium and vitamin D, high on triglycerides but ok on cholesterol, and my white blood cell count is abnormally low. I got a whole list of foods to beef up in my diet, but they're pretty much all my favorite foods already. Makes me wonder if the problem doesn't have more to do with processing/utilizing the stuff than not getting enough. I guess we'll see in a few months if there's a change.

Mom and Dad were in town again on the 11th, so Eden and I met them at the airport Red Robin to visit and catch up. They've been flitting around lately like crazy, it seems, travelling through Hawaii, Mexico, and Minnesota in a matter of months. It's strange - seems like I never quite know where to find them from day to day, simply because I can't seem to keep up with their plans!

Saturday the 12th was time for our A&P lab final for the term. I actually felt pretty well prepared for the event, thanks to Professor Christie's excellent teaching skills and handy, if ridiculous, mnemonic rhymes. Unfortunately, it was another bad, bad migraine day, and I spent most of the time just trying to hold together long enough to get through it. Not the best mindset to score well, as I suspected and later confirmed - final score for lab was a mid-range 'B' - good, but not good enough.

20110314-Playing with Eden's Pretties - Crane Final20110314-Playing with Eden's Pretties - Earrings FinalMigraines continued to be nasty throughout the weekend, and I spent a fair portion of the time just cowering in the dark, but my head finally cleared for a bit on Monday evening, leading to a short session of playing around with some of Eden's jewelry, a macro lens, and a couple of flashes. I'll need to make the set up a bit more stable for next time, but I'm fairly pleased with the results.

Unfortunately, the clear head didn't last at all. Eden and I went up to Seattle on Thursday, and I'm afraid that she ended up doing most of the driving. The spike hit home while we were locked up in downtown traffic, which really sucked, as I had to spend 20 minutes trying desperately to hold together until I could get somewhere to pull over and change drivers. Usually I have a few minutes while it's changing from drivable discomfort to get away from traffic, but this time, not so much. We were up to check out the PIMA radiology program, which is a private school associated with Apolo college. As it turns out, not a good fit for me ($40,000 tuition, not accredited, and just a persistent tone that they were much more interested in the cash I could give them than actually conveying an education... oh, and only 30 out of 900 applicants per term would be selected, most of which statistically come out of their own Medical Assisting program, which I read to mean "People who have already shown they're willing to pay through the nose for a certificate that won't land them a job'.) While the intro session was a frustrating waste of effort for me, Eden did get a chance to check out a half dozen of Seattle's knitting shops while we were there, and she had a great time doing so. We're planning to make a day trip of it towards summertime with Cassiein tow.

I ended up taking my lecture final on the 18th with yet another horrible headache. I actually didn't score that badly, ending with a 90.8% for that test (and making a nice progression with the previous two midterms at 88 and 89% each, respectively), but of course that wasn't enough to lift my final grade out of the 'B' range. Pity, but not entirely unexpected, I'm afraid. Honestly, while I feel like I'm actually learning quite a bit from retaking A&P at PCC from the different perspective and emphasis between the two schools (of the two, I think PCC is actually tougher and more interesting - as a for instance, OIT only spent a few weeks of the first term on histology, whereas PCC works it in throughout), I almost feel like I'm treading water with respect to making progress in improving my application chances - I've bumped up my chemistry and medical terminology grades, which'll help, but A&P hasn't moved a bit so far, and I don't hold a lot of hope for making an 'A' in the last term either. On the plus side, we started pet sitting for Jake, Teddy, and Rikki again that evening, so at least I had some furry friends to console me.

The next few days were a bit of a muddle, as I stayed rather horribly dizzy and nauseous, with occasional spikes of pain throughout. It seems that the recent "supermoon" helped all the ladies at market synch up their cycles, and Eden's PCOS helped make the time extra miserable. In the end, I spent most of the time at Vicki and Kari's trapped without a vehicle (which I wouldn't have been up to driving anyway), and Eden spent most of the time huddled up in our king size bed with our cats comforting her.

20110323-Small spiral20110323-Top of the ChimneyBy the 23rd, we were both absolutely fed up with cabin fever, and said damn the consequences. Off to the gorge for a brief escape from respective houses, and a tiny bit of time together. We ended up visiting the site of the original Multnomah Lodge, which burned down decades before, but the chimney still stands. Somehow, not many people know about the site, but it's very pretty, and even has it's own route to Mist falls if you're willing to hike nearly vertically.

On Friday I headed back to the VA to meet with the psychiatrist that had been assigned to meet with me, since the VA would now take over the management of my ADHD meds and wanted to verify the original evaluation. I have to say, I was really quite shocked and impressed by Dr. Blumner - I'm afraid that my experiences with Jessie have left me terribly angry at their profession as a whole, since I think a lot of the issues that led to her death resulted from her psychiatrist functionally just throwing pills at her problems without any associated therapy. There's not a whole lot in specific that I want to share about our session, but I must have spent at least an hour and a half with her for what was supposed to just be a quick intake interview, and spent an annoyingly large portion of that time actually crying. I think that, more than anything, brought home just how depressed I've been over these past few months - regardless of the fact that it was a safe environment in which to do so, I simply lost control of my emotions for a while - it's not something I am comfortable with, as a rule. And of course, while we did eventually decide to try an anti-depressant (one which often is issued as a treatment for migraine, so maybe we'll get lucky and get help with both issues, there) and a different ADHD med, she's also set me up with a therapist to try to make things more survivable while I get my health back under control. So yeah, bonus points to her for coming off as a completely trustworthy ally when working with an overly skeptical patient.

20110326-Ricki 220110326-Ricki 6The next few days lapsed back into the pattern of me at Vicki and Kari's and Eden in Vancouver, as migraine issues persisted and Eden developed a relatively short sinus/fever bug. I ended up hiking a couple of miles to the Max to get back up to Vancouver at the end of it, just to try to save her a trip, which didn't work out so well for my netbook, yet again - somehow the backpack opened up while I was in the middle of the street and the poor thing hit the deck relatively hard. It seems like ever since I've been working towards getting out of the computer field, technology just doesn't care that much for me. No problems with the hard drive this time, since it was powered down, but there were some issues with a jammed power button that took me a while to figure out and fix. In any case, Eden, bless her heart, wanted to come down to the house to help me clean it before we locked up to turn it back over the Vicki and Kari, but ended up feeling so awful by the time we got there that she ended up having to turn right back around and run for home. Still, it was a noble thought, since she had spent barely any time at the house and still wanted to help clean.

Not too much to report about the remainder of the month, except that adapting to the new meds has left me rather vulnerable to stress - it seems like it takes barely any excitement to tip me over into agony, as an incident with Piranha getting sick in the middle of trying to help Cassie beat a deadline proved. It's kind of a weird change - seems like the headaches are coming on a bit less on their own, but are almost vindictive about striking when there's an excuse to raise my blood pressure. Unfortunately, every one of the meds I've just changed to lists dizziness as a side effect, and the doctors want me to shift away from a few of my normal coping methods, like the energy drink caffiene bombs, so it's been a bit rough. Hopefully it'll be the beginning of a transition back to normal, though.