Category Archives: general musings

general musings and rambles on any topic that i feel like i want to write about

non-brain health update

i mean, it is all about my brain, really. but i just went for my annual physical with my GP (dr. yount) who is also my GYN on monday and am overall pretty pleased with the results. it’s so convenient to get my annual PAP/STI screening at the same time as my blood work and all the other stuff. dr. yount is a one-stop shop! i hadn’t seen her since my brain surgery – in fact, she was the one who gave me the referral to get the MRI that got me on the path to the surgery at my last annual, last july. so we had a lot of catching up to do.

my BP was just a tad high 134/82 in the office – but when i check it at home, 8 times out of 10 it’s in the 120’s/80 or lower, much closer to “normal,” so she told me to just keep monitoring it. i’ve gained all the pounds i lost post-surgery but am at my usual weight, haven’t put on any extra pounds. she poked and prodded me, they took a urine sample, and lots of blood. (thankfully they found a vein on the first try!)

my lab tests all came back today and everything checks out as being within normal range except my cholesterol, which is of course borderline high. my HDL and triglycerides are actually really good though, so that helps. it’s the LDL that is bad. i think i need to make some adjustments to my diet for sure. i’ve been trying to eat better the past couple of weeks but particularly when i’m overnight dog sitting and rushing around with no spare time, i have to admit i eat pretty crappy. lots of takeout and frozen meals. this past week i stepped up the exercise, adding an evening walk in the park to my routine, which also has the added bonus of aiding in my digestion of dinner and helping me sleep better. but i’ll need to stick with it and get more vigilant with what i’m eating, for sure.

the part i’m pleased about is that my glucose and A1C were both good, both of which had been flagged last year as borderline high. i really think it had something to do with the fact that i didn’t fast last year before the exam, in fact i ate lunch right before i went there! but this year i made sure to eat breakfast really early and not have anything else but water for 8 hours before they drew blood, so i think these results are a lot more accurate. so no diabetes for me!

am i the model of health for a 53-almost-54 year old woman? no. i have pounds to lose, i have achy joints and a wonky knee, high cholesterol and blood pressure that i have to keep an eye on, and i know i’m at risk for heart disease – it runs in the family. not to mention the remaining brain tumor. but really, despite all that, i’m in pretty good overall health. i exercise daily, i drink a LOT of water, i don’t drink sugary sweet drinks, i no longer drink alcohol and don’t smoke. now if i can just figure out how to eat better on a regular basis and keep stepping up the exercise.

i swear, if there was ONE thing i could say to my younger self, to change the trajectory of my life, it would be to take better care of my body and to pay more attention to what i put into it. and to exercise more. we all just think we’re so invincible when we’re young, don’t we? but i can’t turn back the hands of time, so here i am at midlife. time to make some adjustments.

how i’m doing

this is a health-related post, so if you’ve come here looking for NA beer reviews, use the category links for that blog stream. i don’t have any big health updates, just a few observations and thoughts after a long day of jazz festing in place with friends yesterday.

i really struggled with my voice and my energy yesterday. we were outdoors, no masks cuz we were all fully vaccinated, with WWOZ blaring from a bluetooth speaker. there were ten or so of us, spread out, so when i spoke, there was enough going on that i had to try to project my voice across distance and over others who were having side conversations as well as the music. it was fine at first – it’s definitely better without the mask and my voice has gotten stronger over time – but the longer the day went on, the harder it became to do and the more strained my throat felt. and the softer and higher pitched my voice got. and the more exhausted i was.

trying to speak loud enough to be heard exerts a lot of energy. it also messes with my breathing, which also expends energy. (i never realized before surgery and my ensuing complications that your vocal folds have a lot to do with regulating your breath going in and out of your wind pipe. so talking a lot, when one side of your vocal cords is paralyzed, makes breathing harder while doing so.) and then there was the angelique kidjo dancing in the kitchen interlude which put almost 3000 steps onto my fitbit and had me breaking out in a sweat at one point. that was probably the last straw.

all of this lead to me rather abruptly running out of energy like a suddenly depleted battery in a child’s toy. i could feel myself waning and then i just hit a wall and i could no longer function. it wasn’t because i hadn’t slept the night before – i had. i’m not sick. and i had not over-eaten or under-eaten. and i certainly could not attribute it to alcohol as i was drinking NA beer all day (hat tip to rightside brewing’s citrus wheat!) along with some rosemint tea w/ginger ale. this is just how it is now. folks with chronic illness often use the “spoons” analogy and i’m reluctant to appropriate that because i don’t have a chronic illness but i do feel like i now understand that more than i ever did before. post-surgery, i don’t have as much energy as i use to just take for granted having; i now seem to really have a limit, and once that limit is used up, i’m done. period. no pushing through to carry on. i just need to lie down. done. like a toddler.

and it doesn’t take strenuous physical activity to get me there. apparently all it takes is six hours of socializing while seated, constant talking, and a few minutes of dancing in the kitchen.

don’t get me wrong – i’m so happy to be alive and to have recovered so well from a successful major surgery where they drilled into my skull, peeled back part of it, and removed an intruder from my brain stem. but i am not the person i was before and i’m still just getting used to the person i am now, the limitations this still-recuperating body has now.

i don’t share all this to be whining or complaining. i do so because i feel like in general i’ve put a happy face on all of my recovery, and when i see folks now who have only seen me sporadically or on social media, i think they think i’m totally back to “normal” and don’t realize i am still enduring struggles, however minor in the grand scheme of things. but they are still there, and account for my sometimes abrupt change of mood.

in many ways its convenient that that my surgery and recuperation has happened during the pandemic, when life has slowed down and there’s not as much activity going on. i’m not sure that i would actually make it through a normal day at jazzfest at the fairgrounds right now. here’s hoping i build my endurance back up before october when jazzfest hopefully returns.

six months!

i just realized that this past tuesday was my six month mark, post-surgery! woo hoo!

nothing really to report in terms of health updates. i continue to inch closer back to “normal” or whatever that was pre-surgery, mid-pandemic. no lingering effects from the second moderna shot, that i can tell – and i am fully vaccinated now! it has felt really wonderful to share a few hugs with other vaccinated friends. finally the year of no-human-physical-contact ends.

i am still taking only four dog walks each morning most days, but pet sitting is really picking up. this week i have another long weekend pet sit (a dog, two cats and two birds) and have several more bookings in may and june so far. i’m trying to be smart about it – spacing them out, not taking back-to-back bookings, so i have time to rest and reset in between. i know it seems like staying overnight with dogs and cats in other peoples’ houses should be a cush, fun job, and it definitely can be fun cuz i do love all the critters, but it can actually be quite stressful and physically demanding in my older age – all the extra dog walks, poop scooping, and running back and forth between clients homes and my own to feed my needy feline pair. and all the disrupted sleep, usually from pets who are confused being out of their regular schedule and without their owners. the bad sleep is just something i can’t absorb anymore without consequences the next day. i always joked that this business would have been a GREAT idea to have had in my 20s when i was younger and more resilient. but here i am, 53 and 10 years in business. i guess the challenge now is just to learn how to work smarter.

the other thing i realized is that if it’s been six months since i had surgery, it’s been almost seven since i’ve had any alcohol. (i stopped drinking a couple weeks before surgery, just to be in the best possible shape for such a traumatic physical experience.) it’s such a weird thing to realize, for me. i have been a beer drinking fool since i was 15. i don’t think i’ve ever gone more than a few days, maybe a week, without alcohol my whole life. i have never been an alcoholic or even considered myself to have a problem with alcohol, but if i’m honest i can certainly say i’ve abused alcohol on many occasions and definitely drank way too much, often. drinking is such a part of social life here, and as a shy, socially-awkward introvert i have often relied on alcohol as my social lubricant to get me through the anxiety of being around people. plus i do enjoy the relaxation and melting away of the world’s cares it provides short term.

as i have aged though, i think all that beer/alcohol finally caught up to me, because the last decade or so i’ve become acutely aware of how much my body punishes me the next day for imbibing. my body no longer likes alcohol. (maybe it never did but the after effects were easier to suffer through when i was younger.) i still enjoy the buzz it gives me, and i still love the taste of craft beer, but the headaches, the body fatigue and pain, and the risks of what further damage it is doing to my brain and other internal organs is no longer worth it to me. (i only recently realized the link between alcohol consumption and cancer!) i’m not saying i won’t ever drink alcohol again, but when i do, i hope it’s in much more moderation and maybe even only as a special treat. i can envision going back out to bars/restaurants with friends and having one of my favorite leaded beers and then switching to NA for the rest of the evening. that would seem a good compromise to me.

finding the deliciousness of the new wave of craft non-alcoholic beer has given me a whole new perspective on it too. i can drink this stuff and not crave an actual beer. it can represent to me much of what “having a beer” always did for me, and it still satisfies the taste element. no, it’s not the same – NA beer is always going to taste different than alcoholic beer – it’s different, but it’s still good. and interesting. and there’s variety, just like in the craft beer world. now if we could make it the norm for bars and restaurants in the US and NOLA specifically to be offering a selection of these on their menus next to the craft beer roster, then i would be a happy gal. (europe has been on this trend for years. you can pretty much find NA beer on tap in lots of pubs and there is a much wider variety of NA craft beer being produced. europeans understand that NA beer is not just for alcoholics; mindful drinking should be for everyone.)

the most surprising part to me of this NA adventure is how much i’m learning about beer! it’s not that i didn’t have some knowledge of the different styles and brewing techniques before – i’ve always been somewhat interested – but i think drinking without the alcohol makes me even more interested. (and writing about it now also contributes, i’m sure.) it makes me more adventurous in trying different styles and brands too. i have lately tapered off my wild buying sprees of new and different beers, choosing to stick with the ones i’ve really enjoyed the most, but there’s still plenty of NA brews on my must-try list and i’ll get around to them eventually. so stay tuned!

v is for vaccination

artwork by Thomas Wimberly

this isn’t a health update regarding my brain surgery, but it is a health update nonetheless. and it does seem important for me, given what i’ve been through with surgery and my lengthy recuperation, to have gotten the vaccine. i wanted to write down my experience with side effects for myself and also in case it’s helpful to anyone else. so here i am, updating.

i got my second dose of moderna on monday afternoon. my first dose a month ago was uneventful. i had a little bit of a sore arm a day after the shot and maybe a day of fatigue about a week afterwards. (though who knows, maybe it was unrelated?) but i’d heard the second shot of moderna in particular was really affecting people so i was a little worried, though nonetheless excited to be getting it over with.

so, the second shot. both times i got it in my left arm, my logic being that post-surgery, i can’t sleep on my left side cuz my head hurts when i put pressure on the surgery site – and i am a flip-flopper in the night – so i wanted to preserve my ability to sleep on my right side by not getting the shot in that arm. so left arm it was. just like the first time, my immediate reaction was just a sore arm, more of an annoyance than a problem.

i was vaccinated around 3:30pm. by evening, my arm was sore and i was feeling a little tired, but nothing else. i woke up the next morning thinking, hmm, this isn’t so bad. maybe i won’t have any big side effects. i went to work and for the first two dog walks of the morning, i felt ok. it was raining so i was distracted by all the ways the rain makes walking dogs difficult. but by the third walk, with the rain holding off, i was starting to notice my left ankle being very sore, hard to put weight on. i do have problems with my joints from time to time, but not usually that bad. by the 4th walk of the morning, my knees and hips were starting to really bother me too, and i was literally limping along. i was struggling. it was painful to finish that walk and to get in and out of the car. my whole pelvic region felt inflamed.

i came home, had a bowl of granola and almond milk for lunch, and realized every joint in my body was aflame. everything hurt, even when i wasn’t moving. lying on the futon on top of the electric blanket, like a giant heating pad, helped a little, but not a lot. i checked my temperature and i didn’t have a fever, but i was definitely feeling fatigued. by mid-afternoon i could barely keep my eyes open and had to go lie down in the bed. i ended up dozing most of the afternoon away, which was not such a bad way to pass a rainy, stormy afternoon. the cats were so concerned about me they snuggled in the bed with me.

i woke up right before it got dark because the cats were pestering me to feed them dinner. still achy, still fatigued, and now with a headache and chills. still no fever, though. fed the cats, warmed up and ate some pasta and sauce with veggies i’d made the day before, tried to watch a movie but couldn’t get though it because i just felt so awful and crawled back in bed. i didn’t end up taking anything because i’d read such conflicting reports online about whether it was OK to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen – i knew i wasn’t supposed to take it BEFORE getting the vaccine but still felt confused about whether it messed with the efficacy of the vaccine afterwards. so i decided to just tough it out and hopefully sleep it off.

slept all the way through the night and woke up this morning feeling much better. joint pain was gone, body aches, headache and chills gone. i felt like i had a little residual hangover type feeling, from what i’d been through the day before, but that quickly left as i got up and moved around, had coffee, ate breakfast. i worked today and had no problem walking dogs.

my only remaining symptom is that my arm is still sore at the injection site, though maybe a little less so, and just today it has started to also be red in the general area of the shot. but otherwise i feel fine. i guess my body did what it was supposed to do.

i signed up with the V-SAFE program to report my side effects; you should too if you have recently had shot one or two of any of the covid-19 vaccines. it helps the cdc and the vaccine makers learn more about how the vaccines are affecting people. if you feel your specific side effects were worth noting, you might also file a VAERS report. if your side effects made you seek medical help, your doctor or the facility are required to file one of those reports, but if you didn’t you can still do so. you can also use that site to access all their data and see what kinds of side effects people are having and reporting. it’s kind of fascinating

and that’s it. now i just have to wait two weeks to be fully vaccinated! yay!

and, just in, governor edwards announced this afternoon that as of next monday, the 29th, everyone in louisiana 16+ will be eligible for a covid-19 vaccine! (16+ for J&J, 18+ for pfizer or moderna.) so if you haven’t gotten your shot yet, now’s the time to make that appointment. and please encourage your family, your friends, neighbors, co-workers, everyone you know to get vaccinated as well. with europe going back on lockdown and numbers starting to rise in parts of the US, we are in a race against the virus to get folks vaccinated so we can get to herd immunity. let’s do this people!

trying this blog thing again

i’ve owned this vanity URL for over a decade and never did anything with it, so here i am, doing something with it. i’m just getting started but so far it’s a blog where i’m writing mostly about my ongoing brain surgery recovery/health updates as well as my post-surgery/pandemic obsession of non-alcoholic beer. i hope to write about more. i guess we’ll see.

please use the category links if you only want to read a particular topic.