Tag Archives: health

intentions (it’s february already)

i’m trying to do a better job at updating on my various blogs. (i have 3 – this one, my art blog and my pet biz blog which is really just a website for my business but i do sometimes post little updates about my availability/openings.) so here i am. this will be a long and rambling post that will probably only be interesting to me but hi, thanks for reading, if you are.

i posted on my art instagram yesterday a pic of my monthly calendars for january and february that are taped to my wall in my studio, where i mark each day that i spend time in the studio – at least 20-30 minutes – creating, working on art, even writing. just doing something to keep the creative juices moving. it feels rather ridiculous that i need to do this but it’s one of the little accountability tricks (hello adhd!) i’ve learned over the years that really helps me follow through and stick with something. kinda like making lists and then crossing things off. there’s a sense of accomplishment that rewards, similar to that little dopamine hit you get when your social media post gets a “like.” but instead of looking outward for my pat on the back, i get it from myself every day that i’m able to mark an “x” or circle the date on the calendar. and then at the end of the month i can see that i really have been showing up for myself and doing the work, even if i don’t have any finished work or sold items to show for it. and it counters that limiting belief that tells me repeatedly that i “don’t have time” to make art. because i do; i just need to claim it. prioritize it. do it.

this was one of my new year’s intentions for 2023. well really i started on this one back in the fall when i started taking online art classes to get myself out of a blocked/bored period, during which i tend to spiral downward into the “i suck at being an artist” place and then i don’t make any art at all for months or sometimes years. i’m trying to reprogram my brain, reframe my negative thoughts, and at the same time develop a new habit – that of making art every day (more or less). i’d like to be able to say that i truly have an art practice, which is hard to do when you skip months and years and never really work through all the ideas in your head that you want to create. and, well, something about middle age, being 55, that makes me realize if i don’t do it now, when the hell do i think i’m gonna do it? time’s a tickin’. i’m not getting any younger. (plus i have this fantasy – or is it an intention? – that my retirement plan is to be a successful working artist that can support myself after i’ve gotten to the point that i can’t or don’t want to walk dogs anymore.)

so yeah. not new year’s resolutions, cuz i don’t believe in that. that’s just setting yourself up for failure. but intentions at least name where you want to go and how you want to get there. it’s good to put it out into the universe and to tell yourself. to visualize. and then to be gentle and kind to yourself when you don’t manage to do it every single day or have natural breaks due to life, work or other circumstances. but to keep going. keep showing up.

the other intention i put out there to the universe and claimed for myself was to try to exercise more. i know a lot of you think i get plenty of exercise because i walk dogs for a living. and i do when my business is really busy – i can get up to 15-20K steps a day, which is a lot. but right now my business is really slow and i’m not even getting to 5K a day some days. and also, as good as walking is as an exercise, i’m not really doing it aerobically all day. some dog clients walk fast and i do get my heart rate up for 20 minutes at a time, but most of my dog clients are slow meanderers. i’m still moving but the health benefit is probably negligible.

so while in my process of sorting through my friend nita’s estate/house full of things, i kept eyeing this fold-up exercise bike that she bought a few years ago for physical therapy after one of her stints in rehab. she used it for a little while but then it just sat. and over the months as people have come and gone claiming things from her house, no one took the bike. i didn’t realize at first that it folded up to take up less space and i originally thought i wouldn’t have somewhere to put it in my house and it would be hard to move, to fit in my car. but in january, as things were winding down at her place, i found the owner’s manual and realized how to fold it vertically and voila, i knew where i could store it when not in use in my house. and it would fit easily in my car. it kinda seemed perfect. so i took it.

me and bike riding go way back. i’ve always had a bike. as a kid all through elementary and junior high, i rode my bike to school. it was over a mile each way. and for much of my life here in new orleans i was without a car, so my bike was my main means of travel through my 20s and 30s, getting me to the bank, the grocery, the post office, etc. all those years i worked for nita over on algiers point, i rode down canal street from midcity and took the ferry over on my bike. when hurricane katrina hit, i actually had 2 bikes, but didn’t think to put them upstairs when i evacuated and they drowned downstairs in the entryway to my dad’s apartment that got 4 feet of water. i did get a bike in louisville that i rode some, but my 40s and 50s has had me sharing or owning scooters and cars so bikes have taken a back seat and rarely used. (i do still own two regular bikes that are in the shed gathering dust.)

even when i owned a real bike and used it, i have had recumbent exercise bikes in my home. i had one on iberville pre-katrina and used it to help me lose a bunch of weight during one particular time in my 30s. and then when i moved into my current house, i got another recumbent bike that mostly lived out on the back porch since i didn’t have anywhere to put it inside. i used it off and on until a family of wasps decided it was a great place to build a nest, and the elements really messed with the electronic display on it as well. i eventually dragged it to the curb. so it’s been a while since i have had an exercise bike but it’s what i think of first as a home exercise method for burning calories, moving muscles and getting my blood circulating better.

all of this is prelude to saying that grabbing this bike from nita’s was a good way to work on my intention of moving more. and the first two weeks i had it i used it almost every day. the first few days were really hard and then it got a little easier. i started with 10 minutes, like i had when i was in physical therapy, and worked up to 15 but that’s where i stopped. it’s been a few weeks since i got on it but i woke up this morning and hopped on before i even had my coffee and did 15 while watching an art instruction video on my phone. (it has a little shelf where you can position your phone or ipad to watch things. i also pull it into the living room so sometimes i watch tv.) this morning it wasn’t hard at all and i barely broke a sweat, my heart rate not even reaching 115. which is great, cuz one day i was having a really hard time, hadn’t slept much the night before, and could only do 10 minutes and my heart rate got over 140 and i thought i might have a heart attack!

anyways. i’m thinking of making a little accountability calendar to keep near the bike to reward myself every day that i use it by marking it off. and maybe recording how long i rode it. i know i feel better when i do even 10-15 minutes, and i’d like to work up to 20-30 and then maybe faster or increase the difficulty/tension. all of this is about trying to regulate my blood pressure and cholesterol better, which i know exercise helps. i used to like going for long walks but since i walk for a living sometimes it’s a hard sell to go walk more – my feet always end up hurting/swelling – so the bike riding seems like a better option for me. it’s not a recumbent bike, it’s an upright, but it has a big padded seat and nothing hurts when i ride it so it feels like a pure heart and muscle workout.

what else? what other intentions did i have for this new year? well, a lot of it involves my art and the business of art, which i have not focused on at all for years now. the irs is about to tell me that my art biz is just a hobby cuz i’m not showing a profit on it like i did for many years. and really, i’d love to be making more money from my art right now, especially since the pet biz is slow. but i’m also in this exploration and education phase with my art where i’m trying not to think first about making something to sell but instead to make something to express, to just create, to enjoy and explore new processes. so those things are at odds and so far i haven’t made any motions to sell anything i’ve been making over the past 6 months, mostly cuz nothing feels like a finished product. and that is by design!

so i’m wrestling with that inside my head and meanwhile my bank account is dwindling precariously low and if i don’t pick up some new clients or figure out something to sell soon i’m gonna be living off my credit cards and raiding my hurricane emergency fund. i guess we’ll see what happens. it’s interesting for me to note that i’m not really freaking out about this. i know my pet biz ebbs and flows – it’s just like this sometimes and the new clients always appear eventually, usually after mardi gras. money always seems to fall out of the sky for me at just the right moment – the abundance of the universe is real. but i am certainly at a low point right now. i just have to trust that it will resolve and keep doing what i’m doing, working on myself, my health, my art practice, and putting good vibes out into the universe.

i guess that’s all for now. did you make any new year’s resolutions or intentions? how are they going for you? i like it when i get comments on this blog cuz it lets me know someone is reading it besides me.

oh, and happy mardi gras to all those who celebrate!

how did it get to be 2022 already?

it’s been a long time since I wrote in this blog. i’m still drinking NA beer and trying out new ones all the time but i guess my fascination with writing reviews about each one has dwindled. (i’ll try to get back to that this year.)

nothing remarkable has been going on with my health, which is of course good news. i meant to write a one-year craniversary post in october but never did. (i posted on facebook about it instead.)

i did start writing a hurricane ida post with a play-by-play from my vantage point inside my house but never finished it, so it sits in my drafts. i think i will keep it there as more of a journal entry for myself. it was quite an experience and the ensuing few months with a partially collapsed shed in my backyard that i looked at every day took a toll on my mental health, but i seem to have made it through. it took a while but i did get a brand new shed and things got back to normal more or less and life just went on and i didn’t write about any of it here on this blog.

and now it’s new year’s day 2022. i first started writing this post on december 17th but didn’t finish it then. it was a week where i began the first two of many holiday cat sits while still having my full dog walking schedule. the following week i started an 8-day overnight dog sit, hopefully the last one of those i’ll ever do. (i will continue dog walking and cat sitting and doing any other petsitting which does not require me to spend the night.) there were a few more cat sits sprinkled in there. work was very hectic for those few weeks, but it was great for my bank account and now i can start to pay down the credit card i filled up with all the vet bills for sticker and stencil’s various ailments of the past several months. (they are both doing better now, thank goodness.)

if you know me then you know i don’t really love christmas. it’s not that i hate it but i think the combo of having a job that is peak busy during the holidays and being single/living alone makes it challenging. in the past i have enjoyed decorating for the holidays but for the 11 years i have lived in this tiny one bedroom rear apartment that doesn’t face the street and has no interior doors or way to keep a christmas tree away from naughty cats, i have not decorated. no one ever comes to my house so no one but me would see it, and during the holiday time i’m hardly in my house because of work so it seems a waste of time, energy and money. i enjoy other people’s decorations though. and i try to get my little rituals in – christmas eve for a few hours with one group of friends, and christmas day for a few hours with another – but aside from that, it’s just a whirlwind of a month of working where i try my best to not get sick.

sadly, i was not successful with that this year. i got really run down from my work schedule (late nights, early mornings, bad sleep, poor eating) and it remains to be seen yet (still waiting on the results of a PCR test) whether it’s omicron (covid) or not. i have symptoms that come and go but for the past week i’ve had severe fatigue, off and on runny nose, a cough and occasionally a scratchy throat, and i experience what feels like hot flashes but they don’t register as a fever with my digital forehead thermometer. oh, and i had a serious headache for a few days, which was actually the most alarming of symptoms because i just don’t get headaches… except when something is really wrong. (like when i had meningitis and discovered my brain tumors!) so i’ve taken two rapid tests, a few days apart, which both came back negative, and i went for a PCR on Thursday hoping to get the results back in time to partake in new year’s eve festivities. the results have still not come in and my symptoms have been so inconsistent it’s been hard to tell if i actually have something or am just worn out from working too much. i did end up going over to some friends’ house last night for a couple of hours but i kept my mask on even though we were outside and there was a strong breeze, and i kept my distance from everyone. i took a rapid test right before i went (negative) and felt fine when i went there but my energy waned pretty quickly and i came home around 11pm. i was in bed before midnight.

and here we are, january 1st, 2022. happy fucking new year. i want to be optimistic about what’s in store this year for all of us but it’s hard to do with omicron raging through new orleans and the country/world at the moment. but hey, mardi gras is on this year! which means we have a six day lull between the end of the christmas/new year’s holiday and the beginning of the carnival season which begins on thursday, 12th night (epiphany). bring on the king cake! the joan of arc parade is on and i guess we’re gonna go and just keep our masks on the whole time and try hard not to be in a thick crowd. not sure how mardi gras is gonna go but i think a lot of us are hoping omicron will have peaked and maybe passed for the most part by the height of carnival parade madness. more concerning is the pussyfooters’ blush ball, which i have a vip ticket for, which is on january 28th. crossing fingers!

i guess that’s enough of a longwinded post for now, to get me caught up. i’ll make a separate post about what has been percolating in my mind creatively and what i’m otherwise working on for 2022. go eat your black eyed peas and cabbage y’all!

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.

9 months!

yesterday marked 9 months since my brain surgery! in some ways it feels like a very distant memory; in others, it seems like it was yesterday.

overall, i am doing great. i am functioning more or less normally in most ways in my life, to the point that anyone who sees me out and about in the world would not ever know i had brain surgery unless i told them.

i am still struggling with a few “invisible” deficits (my throat is still a hot mess, between my frozen left vocal cord and my permanently swollen right tonsil – i sound like an old man coughing and clearing my throat all the time as these issues still make swallowing and breathing challenging at times) but they are minor in the grand scheme of things.

my eyesight has stabilized for the most part; i only have double vision first thing in the morning or really late at night when i’m really tired, on rare occasion. i still haven’t made it in to the eye doctor but hopefully a new prescription will resolve some of that.

my head – skull, really – still feels weird. waking up each morning is a daily reminder of the trauma i went through, as my head and neck always hurt for a little while – likely from the pressure having built up, from being flat all night – but once i’m up and about it goes away. from what i’m reading from others who’ve had this surgery, it really doesn’t ever get better. my head is going to feel strange for the rest of my life. i have accepted this and i try to not let it bother me but some days it’s hard to not dwell on it. it can be alarming.

my voice comes and goes. some days it is better than others. people still tell me it sounds like i’m getting closer and closer to my regular voice but to me it still sounds so strange and not me at all. the thing that bothers me most is not being able to speak loudly or yell. folks still have a hard time hearing me sometimes.

i would say my work capacity is at about maybe 2/3rds to 3/4ths of what i was able to do pre-surgery, with some limitations. (i think i learned last week that 10 days is maybe too long for overnight sitting without getting some kind of break. i managed, but i also got sick in the middle of the sit, likely due to being rundown from lack of sleep and just overdoing it.)

i might not ever get back that last 1/4 to 1/3 of my capacity, but that’s ok. i just have to adjust and be careful about taking care of myself. it’s a very strange realization to have that you might not quite be the same person you were before a major surgery, but i guess it’s a realization that many people have over the course of their lifetimes, about various kinds of surgery. and really, i’ve bounced back pretty well and i have a lot to be grateful for.

speaking of which, i’m in the middle of sending out handmade thank you cards to everyone who helped me through surgery in any way. it is a very long and laborious process, as my spreadsheet has 350+ people on it to thank! and there are a lot of folks i don’t have mailing addresses for. so if you are reading this and you don’t think i have your snail mail address, please do send it along. i will eventually ask you for it when i get to your name on my list but free free to volunteer it.

not much really to report otherwise. it’s starting to be the dead of summer here, mid july. we’ve been spared the extreme heat/humidity combo through most of june thanks to daily rain but it looks like it’s setting in now, and it is more draining to me than it ever was before. i’m grateful i only walk dogs half the day now because i don’t think i could handle much more. i literally have to come home and lie down in the AC every afternoon when i’m done to recuperate… and that’s from only 4 hours of walking.

i did manage to schedule some vacation for myself in august around my birthday though, and i’m greatly looking forward to it. i haven’t gotten out of town since december 2019 so vacation is long overdue. and great to have 10 days off work in august which is usually the most miserable month of the year.

so that’s it, that’s my update. hope everyone’s having a good summer!

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!

5 months post-op

i don’t really have anything major to update here since the last post. i go back to see dr. ballay, the ENT, next week. he is likely to scope me again to check out my vocal cords and suggest some procedures to fix them if they haven’t managed to free themselves up enough to his liking. i am pretty sure i will just keep waiting it out – i don’t want any more interventions to recuperate from right now, and things are ok as they are. i’m used to my funny voice at this point and it continues to get stronger as the days go by.

i thought i’d talk about some of the things i don’t usually talk about, that are different and weird with my body and probably will be for the rest of my life. recovering from a major surgery like a craniotomy is not just a couple-month thing that you are suddenly done with – it’s an ongoing process and many who have undergone what i’ve been through report they don’t get back to feeling themselves for a year or more. some, many years. i feel like i’m doing pretty well to have a lot of my time each day where i don’t even think about the fact that someone cut my head open 5 months ago and extracted an invader and glued and stapled me back together again. i’m doing great and am super grateful for that and for all the support from all y’all that got me here.

but still. every single morning the first thought i have when i wake up is a sort of panic thought, an inventory of my skull and neck, to make sure my head hasn’t cracked open along my surgical scar and my brain hasn’t leaked out all over the place in my sleep. this might sound ridiculous or irrational, but it’s true. i wake up every day to the sound of my own heartbeat and blood rushing through my head, pounding around my ears, which is alarming. i am keenly aware of the pressure that has built up by the simple action of lying flat in the bed, head rested on my pillow, for 6-8 hours. this is not unusual for folks who’ve had this surgery, and i could remedy some of the pressure by using my wedge pillow to elevate my head/torso while sleeping, but in those few weeks post-surgery when i absolutely HAD to use the wedge pillow, i found it very uncomfortable for my body, gave me kinks in my back and shoulders, and not conducive to restful sleep. so i am reluctant to go back to it since i am getting good sleep lying flat.

but it’s a distressing way to wake up every morning, a rough way to start each day, being reminded of the trauma my body has been through and how it’s not quite done recuperating. as soon as i get out of bed and start moving around, the blood redistributes itself in my body and the pressure goes away, so it’s really only a momentary experience, thankfully. but nonetheless disturbing. i hope it eventually stops being like this.

(and before i get any “helpful” comments about my blood pressure, i take my BP with a home unit almost daily, at different times of day and night, and it’s always completely normal and sometimes even kinda low. never high. 111/72 last night. so that’s not it.)

i also have a faint bit of tinnitus that stays with me throughout the day, though i don’t notice it much after i am out in the world. i can’t decide if it’s always been with me and i just never really noticed it before – a relic of my years of DJ’ing, as i am aware of some hearing loss for the same reason – or if it is new and tied to the brain surgery. (my incision is kind of a curve around my left ear and many folks who have this surgery report issues with their hearing or lingering tinnitus.) i’m aware of it mostly when it’s very quiet, which is usually only in my house in the early morning or late night.

and then there is the hair loss. i don’t have a lot of hair to begin with – i inherited my father’s very thin, fine hair that grows sparsely over my head. it’s one of the reasons (not the only, obviously) i’ve always worn my hair short, because when it is longer, it is limp and lifeless and just thin and not flattering. but ever since surgery, i’ve been noticing i lose a LOT more hair every time i shower. the drain catcher is always full making the water back up in the tub halfway through every shower i take, which NEVER happened to me before. maybe it would happen once a week or every two weeks before surgery. now it’s every day. i don’t have any bald spots and it’s not coming out in clumps or anything; i am just shedding more than i used to and it’s noticeable and disturbing to me. (yes this could also be partly menopause related, but the timing seems related to surgery.)

also, the shape of my head, my skull, is SO WEIRD now. with my hair grown in, it’s not noticeable to anyone else (see picture above), but i feel it when i rub my fingers over my scalp, like when washing my hair. along my scar line it’s a little sunken in, and there are weird ridges now in the general incision area that didn’t used to be there. my left ear also pokes out much further away from my face than it used to, different than my right ear. it makes my glasses sit a little cockeyed and i’ve wondered if that contributed to my vision issues. and overall, my scalp just feels tighter and strange. i usually only notice it when combing my hair, or putting on a hat. and there are still numb spots along the scar. but yeah. my skull is pretty weird now. i think maybe it is just my new normal, as others who’ve had the same surgery report similar symptoms even years after surgery.

my vision has thankfully evened out, though. either that or my brain has learned to compensate for it, cuz i don’t notice double vision anymore. if i am looking for it, i DO notice i still have a hard time focusing in my upper right quadrant, which was an area we worked on in physical therapy. but i don’t have much need for looking in that direction often so it’s not something i notice. i think maybe i just move my head more to accommodate that deficit. my eyes do still get tired easily and i do still have dry eye especially late at night. drops help a little for a few minutes but not in any long term way. i think i will go in to my usual eye doctor soon for a prescription update and see what he says.

i hardly notice my swallowing issues anymore and am now convinced i was already having trouble with it before surgery, though it’s hard to isolate if i always had this trouble my whole life or if it was something that crept up on me as my tumor grew and likely stretched out/displaced my nerves in that area. i eat/drink everything fairly normally now and only rarely am reminded by a too-big bite or something really dry and difficult to slow down and give a good swallow with all my might to force something down that’s gotten “stuck.” as long as i have liquid with my meals, it’s not usually an issue that even registers anymore. so that’s good. i guess dr. ballay will probably order another barium swallow test to see how i’ve progressed so i’ll have a real answer soon about whether i’ve just adapted or if things have truly improved.

i do notice my breathing is more labored than it ever was before, at times, and i think that has to do with the remaining vocal cord issues. it’s not that i can’t breathe, but if i’m trying to talk or eat while also being active in any way that causes me to breathe heavier, it can be challenging. and i regularly take only short, shallow breathes and have to be mindful to take in deep breathes to get really good levels of oxygen going. everything just takes more thought, more mindfulness now, rather than just being automatic.

and lastly, my energy levels. while it’s definitely continuing to get better and i make it through my days of dog walking pretty easily since it’s only really a half day of work, i did notice when i was dog sitting and adding in several more walks a day that i was truly exhausted by it. i needed a few days after that job to recuperate. so i think going forward i will only schedule overnight sits when i can do so with ample recuperation time afterwards. and i’m really not looking forward to the heat and humidity of the summer!

so yeah. i’m still dealing with the after-effects of the surgery. i don’t talk about it now cuz it just sounds like i’m whining and maybe doesn’t sound consequential to anyone else, but some days are still a struggle. i still have bad days, especially if for whatever reason i haven’t slept well. lack of sleep hits me a LOT harder than it used to, and since i’m an early riser, that means i don’t do late nights much. i’m generally in bed by 10 or 10:30 at the latest, and awake by 6 or 6:30 due to my cat alarms.

oh, and just cuz some folks have asked: yes, i got my first moderna shot two weeks ago and will go for my 2nd a week from monday. hardly felt the jab at all, and just a tad bit of arm soreness. about a week after the shot i had one day of feeling really run down, but not sure if that was due to the shot or just a regular off day. it passed. i’m a little worried about the side effects from the 2nd shot, especially since it’s on a monday and i will have to work the next day, but here’s hoping it doesn’t affect me too badly.

i know this was long; thanks for reading! i’ll give another shorter update next week after the appointment with the ENT.

four and a half months out

just a quick update to say all is going well. i had my last speech therapy appointment feb. 18th and don’t have any more doctor’s appointments until march 18th when i see dr. ballay, the ENT, again.

i continue to work half days dog walking with four clients, and just this last week reintroduced dog sitting to the repertoire. i’ve been staying with the world’s most lovely 10 year old husky named luna, and i’m in love with her! she is the sweetest and best dog, though has been exhausting me with four more walks a day in addition to my usual four. so my daily average of between 8-10,000 steps has gone up to around 15-17,000 steps a day!

the rollercoaster of weather changes has my body a little out of whack though. i’ve had some random vertigo outta nowhere that comes and goes in the course of a day; nothing so severe that i can’t function but enough to make me feel slightly “off.” and sleeping overnight in a different bed, regardless of how comfortable it is, always affects my sleep. so as this week of dogsitting winds down, i’m feeling myself pretty drained and exhausted. hopefully the weekend will recharge me.

so i guess no more health updates until the next doctor’s appointment. i’m doing ok, trying to remember to do my PT and ST exercises on my own regularly, still doing weekly neurosculpting mediations with emily, and trying to eat more fruits and vegetables by making weekly purchases from the farmers market. i hardly go to the grocery store anymore though i do still eat out more than i should, especially when i’m staying outside my home. but for the most part i think i’m doing a pretty good job of self care and i continue to be so grateful to have had the resources and support to take this recuperation at my own pace.