Tuesday, January 18, 2011

reasonable news for now

My friends Chris & Alice gave me these lovely mugs for Christmas.... filled with not only posh organic teas! Lent will come too soon... will it be time to relinquish chocolate yet again? It was a long Advent!

Just updates tonight:

The cold is 90% healed, for which I am EXCEEDINGLY grateful to God. It didn't become the flu, which I managed to come down with last year at this time (when my white counts plunged to point-nine). I've been to the gym a few times (whoa!) in the past several days and am slowly rebuilding my strength.

The mystery spots biopsy stitches come out tomorrow. Having to caretake this little bit of thread by avoiding too much water contact has been an extreme annoyance. How my aching muscles longed for the jacuzzi at the Club! I poured some toxic goo all over my body the other night presupposing something that has not been medically verified. At this point I will gargle from the La Brea Tar Pits if it'll make the invisible traumatizing bastards go away for good. All the brownie points I gave myself last summer for months of ecological line drying went straight to hell the past several weeks doing sometimes four loads of hot washing and drying a day. It's been a few days since I've seen new spots. I understand why people go mad over the seemingly "smallest" things.

My latest blood test results are a hoot. (That's a funny thing to write for someone who goes bonkers around them, wouldn't you say?). December's numbers were: WBC 1.7 (a notch low); RBC 3.7; Platelets 89 (low and disturbing), ANC (neutrophils) .4 (ditto). I had my blood drawn at the new doctor's office last week when I didn't want to, since when I'm sick, they suck. So....

WBC: 2.2 (not a typo)
RBC: 3.2
Platelets: 105
Neutrophils: Unknown 'cause they're called something else on this test

I could tell I was quite anemic just by looking in the mirror. You're as pale as a ghost! Perhaps I should be more worried, but I know I can bump the reds with diet and supplements over time. A platelet drop foretells that which I DON'T want to happen... and will not be named here! So my reds went turbo anemic yet my platelets rose. WTF? As for the white counts, I don't know what to say. I haven't been over two since I don't know when. In fact, the weird line I didn't recognize called "segs" seems to be another medical code for neutrophils. If I compare that percentage with December's, that TOO rose.

Something called "modified Westergren" was elevated. I believe it attests to inflammation. I've been sick! Duh!

And the rest of my numbers, all those bits from cholesterol to thyroid stimulating hormone to BUN this and bilirubin that? AWESOME. So now I feel like a bad parent trying to shame the dummy kid into emulating the brilliant sibling: "Bone marrow... yeah you! I'm talkin' to YOU! I want you to make like all those other counts and KICK SOME ASS now, ya hear? They're 4.0 Dean's List summa cum righteous! Just DO it, okay?" I've tried gentle yet powerful visualizations... patting my legs and saying, 'come on, kids, you can do it'. Today I was bratty and bossy. It's been a stressful month health-wise. You'd think the extra chocolate I'm helping myself to would be enough but noooooooooo.....

I took some wry enjoyment from the Old Testament reading I heard in Church on Sunday. Here's the line that stands out for me: "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword." [Isaiah 49:2]. In context this has great holiness. On Sunday I didn't feel so holy, so I latched onto it while I sulked.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the CBCs. The drop in reds makes sense. The whites shooting up while I've been rallying them to my defense on multiple levels...is this a miracle or a mistake? Where is my trust? I'll be closer to gratitude when I stop pouting.

12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

- Psalm 19:12-14.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

warms, soothes, and sometimes burns

This unwellness has offered a grab bag of clackity bits, from fear of my blood counts sinking further, scaring the YIKES! out of me to the sometimes quirky pleasure of using my erasure in my Day Timer with barely a blip of guilt. Good things include how utterly rested I feel after a marathon 9- or 10-hour night. The flip side of that (a la angel on one shoulder and that perverse twerp on the other) includes the GUILT for such indulgent SLOTH! You don't even remember your DREAMS for goodness' sake! What good are you?

Oh shut up already.

The dermo dance alone can take up whatever I've somehow once decided was the proper length for one post. This mystery spot plague has been maddening. Some very good news is that the culture I insisted on during our 2nd appointment finally came back negative. I do not have a staph infection praise GOD! Annoying news, however, is that the 2nd biopsy that almost caused me to faint…. which had been sent to UCSF Medical Center, where they are not known to be hacks… came back as bafflingly inconclusive as the first. The untwist the doctor talk translation seems to say that I am having an allergic reaction to something chomping on me… something spider-ish or mite-ish. For five solid weeks, all I had were mystery breakouts in various parts of my body. They still can't tell me exactly what is causing it.

This morning, however, over the course of 2 hours, I spied three teensy tiny things on my clothing. After weeks of 'WHAT IS THIS??????', I found three little creepies the size of a pin prick. Not pin head. Why I was suddenly given the gift of x-ray eyes and laser discernment, I don't know.

The minute I saw the bastard cootie, I was on the phone. Chem-Dry of Marin came over this afternoon and for to me a pittance of $90, sprayed my carpets, area rugs, couch and top of my posh patchwork quilt and foo-foo pillows for "dust mites and allergens." I'd already set off two room foggers a month ago! I've had my car scoured inside and out for $150!! If I wash my clothes any more in hot water they will disintegrate! I shower with Hibiclens antimicrobial liquid and afterwards dab on everything from antiseptic to my essential oils concoctions. (I also have some Fluocinonide - like the name? ugh! - to soothe the itchies). Since roughly December 8th, every couple of days a new handful of "bites" have broken out no matter WHAT I have done.

So I told the doctor after he cooed the inconsequential biopsy results over the phone. "I found something!"

"Well, then, they're probably not dust mites or scabies mites; the human eye can't see those. It could be any number of hundreds of mites. Because of your white cell counts, you're extremely susceptible to the kind of reaction you're having."

I'm beyond ready for them to stop. I pray that napalming my humble home will have done the trick!!!!!

Depleted from wrestling with illness and spots, I met with a new G.P. in the City yesterday, someone whom I felt could offer me more tests to get to the bottom of these challenges. And the kind doctor wanted - surprise - a blood test. I had brought December labs to let him know what he was dealing with. He wanted fresh ones. I made the merest attempt to squiggle out of it before nodding reluctantly.

There went the next 12 hours in a haze.

One of my prayers is to have that smidge of blood drawn from me and in the netherworld before The Results come back, be at peace. This is a fervent intention because the polar opposite normally happens. I become Zombie Woman. It's a miracle that I don't self-soothe with more

medicinal chocolate than I do.

Spazz attack aside, I was given a little gift in my anxiety. As the day went on and 5 o'clock passed, I realized that regardless of their promises, I wasn't gonna know 'til Tuesday as Monday is Martin Luther King Day (bless his memory). So even if the counts make me shriek….I am feeling better than I did yesterday and the day before. Even with my torment crouched with a spear, even pale and weak - I'm feeling as though I'm emerging from this neutrophil-sucking cold.

Quite a morsel of a little gift.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

O my gracious, it's.... it's......!

So what's a little sniffly cold?

Even the sturdiest can fall prey to ordinarily innocuous things gone wrong: Pneumonia; funked up flu shots; antibiotics that weaken one's immune system and then aggravate one's lower gastrointestinal tract - double up the probiotics when you're chugging those; dwindled effectiveness, tiresome whether you're depended upon or not; space brain; and why don't I have a roaring winter fireplace so I can torch all of those tissues filling up my waste bin??

I said space brain, yes?

This may well be my first illness in years where I have not collapsed twitching in a heap of fear. Being ill sucks - but when the offstage whispers taunt me, wondering about my blood counts with how low can they go???, followed by anxiety-infused "NOW what do we do???" - I get edgy. And I am blessedly less at the mercy of the what if??'s than before.

I still have white counts and neutrophils that set off alarms under the best of circumstances. Nurses from the hospital used to warn me about What Could Happen if I left my white-walled prison too soon, before those chemo-ravaged counts could crawl back up again. "Sepsis," one nurse intoned. "What's that?" I asked. Evidently it's when everything goes completely to hell and then you die.

"Fine. I'll stay another day. Too bad the food sucks here."

By the grace of God, I have been free from western medicine's hospital claws for slightly over two years. Can you dig it? Yeah! Still, after being surrounded with the best intentioned folks in my various social excursions, I have managed to come down with a cold. Akk! Blecch.

This is what I am doing: Prayer; rest and liquids; extra beta-carotene (50K-100K/day), Vitamins C & D3, ImmPower and even finishing up a box of the purportedly white cell-nudging ProBoost leftover from last year; s-l-o-w-i-n-g d-o-w-n; breathing; moving my bod just enough to keep the gremlins from stiffening my joints too much; praying over a still-good box of Zithromycin and remaining calmly open to taking it if it seems warranted; letting all this be a grace. And doing it again.

This is what I am NOT doing: Chasing down my healing team in a breathless panic; getting blood draws and freaking out to see the counts not on their best behavior; and being really really afraid, which kicks your immune system's butt. Not in a good way.

Added to this morass of unwellness has been a dermatological sideline as well - mystery spots! Itchy ones. Even with a seemingly perfectly valid excuse to lapse into hypochondria, initially eyeing a few itchies on my body had simply led me to sigh and think, "Hmmmm. Visiting someone with a cat. Maybe allergic reactions to a few flea bites? I live in the country. Coulda picked up something…" The short version of this tale of "What causeth these cooties?" includes a rather drawn-out month of worrisome itchies and two biopsies from a dermatologist who even now can only say, "Well, I just don't know for sure!" Of course my inner physician had gone haywire online, attempting to self-diagnose and treat before Dr. Dermo could see me. I bypassed fear and launched into certifiable paranoia. Suspecting "the itch mite" (also known as scabies, which sounds as sexy as leprosy) led me to thunder through my home, washing everything I could get my hands on in THE HOTTEST water, drying on HIGH, scouring floors and staring bleary-eyed at my posh bed while I searched in vain for any signs of little creepy crawlies. I made my own healing salve with essential oils (tea tree, orange & Neem) in a base of witch hazel. It's maddening having a problem and not knowing what it is. "You have this; do THAT." That works for me. One month after first noticing the spots and as I await the results of the 2nd biopsy as well as a culture for staph, I still don't know exactly what's been tormenting my body and psyche.

The doc who can't tell me what I have assures me that I don't have skin cancer. Whatever it is and was seems to be ebbing, thank God. The 2nd biopsy of last Wednesday almost caused me to faint, and my first stitches in 54 years are being covered, cared for and watched before they're taken out in 10 days. I want a lollipop for all of that!

When I was with my friends in Scotland from April-July of 2009, then only months out of the hospital, a "cold" would produce a high fever and once landed me in Emergency - God bless Alison for taking me there at 11pm! Last year I got some IV vitamins dripped into my veins that threw in a Herxheimer effect for good measure. This year I have prayed, NOT gotten CBCs while my immune system is working it to overcome these things, taken sensible measures, and prayed some more. "LORD, You'll heal me or take me home. Let it be so according to Your Will for me!" This year, the thrashing has eased greatly even if the itching and visual ikkies are a new thorn in the flesh.

I have mystery spots and a sniffly cold.

Normal people get colds and then get well. I shall also, by God's most loving Grace.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

a new day in quiet

This stained glass window is from the Chapel at Bishop's Ranch near Healdsburg, CA… my not even 2-day Silent Advent Retreat. The retreat center had been overseen by the Society of St. Francis in, I believe, the 1970's and '80's. The stained glass windows are a testament of Franciscan gratitude to "Brother Sun," "Sister Moon," "Brother Fire" and many other aspects of God's glories here on earth and in the heavens. "My Lord be praised...." they all say over and over.

I'm allowing this first day of 2011 to be a private retreat of my own, punctuated with the odd phone call and later sharing a "good luck meal" with two friends from my parish … a couple I'd run into at the Northgate Mall last night after running an errand at Macy's and pondering a film I ultimately did not see. I returned home to say Evening Prayer, candles ablaze. And take two bites of naughty chocolate cheesecake (shhhh!).

It is quiet.

My soul has yearned for quiet and I'm letting the Holy Spirit shush my jittery jagged should machine. Another breath. Raindrops, then my furnace kicking on again. Not far away the shoulds are glowering, hissing to judge. "Not enough!" a bony finger twitches.

I breathe again and thank God for the quiet.

While one of the blessings of Bishop's Ranch is their kitchen staff - and the joys of being served such glorious food! - I can savor my own bed even while the odd challenge gnaws away at me. I am rarely devoid of "…but what about THIS????" I am praying through more instances of their shrill jabs. I can be accountable to the Lord and not unduly idle… and taking restorative time feels, right now, like a gift. I know how to giddyup. God knows that, too.

One of today's gifts is peace. Today is a good day to be softly happy and alive.