Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Need a Change - Attack of the Projects

Lately I have been really frustrated with our house.  Nothing major, but I just needed a change in how things look.  It seems like everything is getting on my nerves.  AJ and I have been trying to work through what is the real problem.  We came to the conclusion that it is "stuff".  The over abundance of stuff combined with a lot of our stuff is either hand-me-downs or serious thrift store finds/ major clearance items.  These things have been great to have and make do, but not all of them fit where were are at in life now or our design styles.  We are also pack-rats, accumulating pack-rats to an extreme.

Last night we decided to go to IKEA.  This isn't an unusual activity to go wander around IKEA on a Friday night (I know, I know we are dorky, but it is fun), but last night we were really looking at what we wanted to do with things.  IKEA has re-staged a lot of the displays in our store, and they are now much more appealing to us and more helpful with design ideas.

We are fairly limited in our budget of how much we can spend on changing things.  This means we are still going to have to be very creative and do a lot of hands on time.  It also means it is going take us a while to complete everything that I want to do.  We have the money set aside each month to tackle some smaller things, and work on a piece of some of the more major products (buying bookcases for the library and building storage in the garage).  Some of these projects have already been started and we are still working on them, but others are new wants.

We are also slightly constrained by a few of the pieces of furniture.  We can't get rid of some of the pieces, so we are trying to figure out some good ways to make them work in our house.  They aren't quiet working the way we wanted them to, but we will keep playing with it.  The other aspect of the furniture is that we can't afford to buy all new things, so I can't get rid of the old pieces until we can afford to buy new things.  

I have been scouring craigslist lately to try to find what I would like.  I have also been spending a lot of time on different design websites and blogs.  I have seen a lot of great ideas, and thank goodness a lot of them are doable and cheap/ free.  There are some cool ones that I have already tried and  really liked them.  Others, I have looked at again and decided that just isn't what I want.  I am enjoying these parts of this process of change.

I have also been spending a lot of time de-cluttering.  I am tired of a lot of the random pack-rat items that we have.  I am really thankful that I buy a lot of decorating things at thrift stores or on major clearance, this way when I am tired of it I can take it back to the thrift store for someone else to love for a while.  I guess I have paid to rent it for six months to a year, but when most of the things were bought for under $3 it isn't to bad.  I have a huge carload of things that need to be taken to the thrift store.  There is also a lot of other things that we need to give back to other people, or other things that we have bought for people (we are good at picking  things up on clearance for other people, too) that need to actually go to them and get them out of our house.  Is it sad that I am really enjoying this de-cluttering?  I am really looking forward to going through cabinets, closets, and drawers to get rid of more stuff!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Battle of the Bulge - Week 21 - Swelling

This week has been mentally ok, but physically rough.  Everything is swollen up and was fairly painful once the steroids were out of my system.  24 hours after I finished taking this round I puffed back up.  I have developed these lumps on the bases of my thumbs. They stand up about a half inch, and they really bug me because they look odd/ gross.  I tried to get a good picture of them, but it isn't easy taking a picture of your own hand (and for some reason body damage pictures never come out well - bruises, burns, and bumps).

My whole week has been summed up by swelling and water gain.  Within 48 hours of coming of the steroids I had re-gained 2.8 lbs.  It has since dropped back to only being 1.5 lb gained.  I was mildly frustrated, but I am getting use to this bouncing up and down.  The one that got me was I did my measurements - I had gained about 4 inches total on my whole body.  I was shocked! How is it that water weight can do that? I am sure it is water weight because this is the continuing trend - I have had to take my rings off the last couple of days because my hands were so swollen and my socks are cutting into my ankles. Blargh!

I did have a fun moment this week.  AJ took me to buy a new pair of jeans.  The ones that I have been wearing are stretchy, and after about 30 minutes they have stretched out so far that they barely fit.  The ones that I am moving into have no stretch at all, and they were fitting ok.  They were still a little tight through the hips, but were fitting great through the waist.  With this water jump up they were a little too tight.  So, we went and bought one pair that would get me through.  That was a happy!  The other happy is that my t-shirts are getting really baggy and starting to fall off my shoulders. Yay!!!

I am trying to take this really negative weight week in stride.  I am hoping that this flare is getting close to over because after spending most of the week in a lot of pain, the pain is lessening.  Now, I just need the swelling to go down.  I also have had a minor calorie jump up to about 1800 a day.  Nothing to major, but I need to work on pulling it back down to 1500 since I am not moving nearly as much.  As the pain goes back down I am going to start walking again.  Also, therapy is moving towards more overall body health and I am enjoying the workout they have got me on currently.

Score Card:
Weekly Weight Change : +1.5 lbs
Weekly Measurements : 0 inches
Total Weight Change : -21.7 lbs
Total Measurements : -16.5 inches total body

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday AJ!

Happy Birthday!!!

In honor of him starting his 25th year of life I thought I would do a top 25 list of memories.

    1. The day I met him he climbed a tree and threw sticks at me.

    2. Going to Tran-Siberian Orchestra in Lakeland.

    3. Talking all the way home from Lakeland.

    4. Going to Rock the Universe and seeing him just enjoy theme parks.

    5. Hanging out watching CSI and having Chad think we are weird.

    6. Spending a lot of time over Christmas break at Universal riding roller coasters.

    7. Celebrating a Gator National Championship.

    8. Having him take me on a surprise picnic and asking me out.

    9. Having him run all the way to my apartment when it got broken into and not leaving my side.

    10. Going to Atlanta and seeing Stone Mountain and the World of Coke.

    11. Getting to go to a Braves game with him.

    12. Having him propose when I was really really sick.

    13. Him being there when I was sick and had to have some painful test done.

    14. Our wedding day.

    15. Our honeymoon.

    16. Going to Disney with my parents and seeing him be part of our family.

    17. Going to Hilton Head, SC with his family and being a part of his family.

    18. The day I found out we were moving to Orlando.

    19. Enjoying a second Gator National Championship.

    20. Spending the day in St. Augustine.

    21. The day we found out his position was for real and he was getting hired on.

    22. The day we paid off his student loans.

    23. Going to Disney on our own to celebrate being debt free.

    24. Him calling to tell me we had gotten our house.

    25. Going on our first real long road trip - NC, SC, TN, and GA.

    Happy Birthday, AJ!
    I am looking forward to spending the next 25 years with you and seeing where that road takes us.


    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Battle of the Bulge - Week 20 - Looking Back on the Winding Road

    I can't believe I have been at this journey for 20 weeks.  Some days it feels much longer and others it doesn't feel that long at all.  Since the journey has been "long" and slow I tend to lose track of the fact that I have made progress.  I can occasionally see that progress, but not often.  I still want things to be faster, but this pace seems to be what is right for me.  I wish I could honestly say that if it wasn't for the health issues this journey would be at a faster pace, but I know that isn't true.  I was never meant to be an autobahn driver in any area of life, I do much better on slow country roads, and this journey is the same way.  It has been a slow winding path - back and forth, and up and down lots of hills, but the progression has overall been forward.

    I took the time to actually chart out my overall progress, and I think that was what I needed.  Seeing the downward momentum really made me smile.  It put the hiccups of life back into perspective a bit.  It also gave me a sense of pride in myself that I am frequently missing.  I have set this goal and I am sticking to it, and that is something that needs to be recognized in my own life.

    I was watching Dr. Oz's New Year's episode yesterday (I love rebroadcast).  He was talking about people vowing to lose weight at the start of the year, and that 80% of people who do that are off their "diet" by Valentine's Day - that is only an 6 week time frame.  I have managed to stick with this for over three times that long.  I know I have managed to achieve this in part because I have gotten a lot of positive support from friends and family.  That is something that I need and it has really helped.

    The other thing that makes me smile about seeing this chart is knowing I have done it without pills or potions, or feeling like I can only do this if I am paying someone to "lead" me through it.  I have done it without paying someone to cook my meals for me (other than when we go out to eat).  I feel like I am learning how to really do this and take care of my body.  That is something that I really felt was missing on all the other programs I tried.  There was always an aspect of forcing the food to behave and not forcing me to behave.  My food doesn't need to behave, I do - I am the one with a slow metabolism and who seeks out comfort food.  I have also done this without "diet" food.  I haven't cut fat or sugars out - actually we only have whole fat milk and real sugar in the house.  I feel better about eating real food on this journey than I ever felt about fake food that I can't pronounce the chemicals (and I used to work in research so I can normally say the words and figure out exactly what they are) on any other "plan".

    This last week has seemed to be really hit or miss on things.  I got another prescription for the steroids because things were getting bad.  I had joints that were swelling up and looking really gross.  The steroids seems to be helping some, but not nearly as much this time.  I am wondering if the shot last time jump started things for me, but I will take any relief I can get and I am happy that for the most part the gross swelling on my thumb joints are shrinking some. 

    I have also been hit or miss with the gluten avoidance.  I have managed to remove it from most of my meals, but I am still having it in some meals.  A couple of days this week I had it in one meal a day, but others I had it in no meals.  We did go out to eat with our friend who has Celiac's disease, and he showed us that one of our favorite places has a great gluten free menu.  That makes eating there a much happier option - especially since what I love on the menu is gluten-free (without croutons) already.  Though their amazing cookie dessert isn't, but I can live with that.  

    The weight loss wasn't so dramatic this week, but I did lose 0.8 lbs.  With all the ups and downs - doctor's appointments, scary test (that luckily didn't happen), and a crazy spur of the moment trip to Gainesville to help AJ's best friend move, I will happily take that loss.  We wound up eating out a lot this week.  I am not used to that, but it happened and I survived, and I lost weight.  I think that has been one of the better things I have learned on this journey, that I can have a life and eat food and it doesn't have to be crazy strict.  I don't have to live on salads and diet drinks, but if I listen to my body I can eat what I want - I just have to stop at the right point.

    Score Card:
    Weekly Weight Change : -0.8 lbs
    Weekly Measurements : 0 inches
    Total Weight Change : -23.2 lbs
    Total Measurements : -16.5 inches total body

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    The Jabberwocky Pain Has a Name

    It looks like the beast that has been causing the pain has a name, sort of.  It looks like it is  Rheumatoid Arthritis.  There is still some minor debate about it being "official".  I have all the typical joint pain symptoms, fever, and eye problems.  The rheumatologist put me on corticosteroids for a week and everything got better.  It was a great week not having the joint pain and not having blurry vision.  But, like all good things the medicine ran out and now I am dealing with the return of the symptoms. 

    The reason that there is still debate about this being "official" is that my blood work came back negative.  I got the results from the receptionist and as she put it, "Everything is negative, and you are fine. You don't need another appointment."  I will admit I broke down and cried at that point.  I was so confused and upset.  I asked if I could talk to the nurse, and was told to leave a message.  I did.  I am going to call back again if I don't hear from her soon.  The reason I am so confused is the doctor said he was 99% sure it was RA.  I am still supposed to call back two weeks from my last appointment date to talk to the nurse about how the steroid treatment went. 

    I have decided that I am going to wait until I talk to the nurse (and she talks to the doctor) before I decided that the receptionist is right and "I am fine."  I know that she doesn't know everything that has been going on. 

    I have since talked to the nurse, who took note of the symptoms and I am now waiting to hear back from the doctor's office. Waiting and playing phone tag is really frustrating, especially when I was actually talking to the nurse and my phone died and I had to call back and start all over by leaving another message.

    I did learn from doing some more research that it is possible to have RA without positive blood test.  It is called "seronegative RF factor."  "Some patients who meet clinical diagnostic criteria for RA set by the American Rheumatism Association fail to express RFs at any time during their clinical course."  I also found out that it could take up to 2 years to test positive for the RF, or I could never test positive for it.  So, currently, we are going to deal with this as if I do have RA and move on with life.  

    This is mildly changing how I am going to tackle some goals.  I still want lose the weight.  That should help with some of the pain, less weight on joints = good thing.  The next thing I am looking at is going gluten-free for both of us and primal for me.  I plan on doing a couple of post on both of those ideas later on.  Right now I am still currently looking into different aspects of each and looking for recipes.  It does seem so far that cutting out the gluten should help with the joint pain, too.

    I did do a mini-test for gluten-free (GF) this week.  We didn't eat anything that had gluten in it and then Thursday night I cooked pasta.  My stomach hated me and really hurt Thursday night.  Friday for lunch I took the leftover pasta.  Friday afternoon my stomach hated me and it hurt.  I am taking this as a sign that we are cutting the gluten as best we can.  Luckily, rice and potatoes don't have gluten because I am not ready to go totally primal or carb-free yet.

    It also pushes up our desire to get pregnant.  Thus, the going to the OB/GYN and having this silly test done.  It isn't pushing the pregnancy issue up by much,  honestly just by a couple of months.  It just gives us a little more incentive.  The doctors all seem to think that getting pregnant will either lessen the flares or send them into remission for most of the pregnancy.  It seems that being pregnant fools my immune system into not attacking the joints.  That seems like a good thing, but right now I am only having flares every six months or so, and they vary anywhere from weeks to several months.  It doesn't seem to be nearly as aggressive as  some of the other cases I have read about, and I am really thankful for that.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Medical Incredible or Medical Insanity?

    My life used to consist of me doing medical testing, as in I was the one working with patient's blood trying to help them get better.  My how things have changed.  The picture above is really me in the clean room I used to work in at UF.  Now, instead of working with other people's blood, it is my blood and such in all those tubes.  I am starting to feel like a lab rat, but this time the one in the cage. 

    Yesterday, I went with AJ to an OB/GYN.  We went because we wanted to establish being a new patient and start learning what we needed to be doing to get pregnant, (yes, we understand the basics of when a mommy and a daddy love each other they get all snuggly basics) but with recent health developments we wanted to just talk to someone about the whole thing.  We are slowly learning that what seems to come very easy for other people doesn't come that easily to us, and we are having to be very pro-active about information.

    Well, sometimes I wish we weren't so pro-active on information gathering.  When we talked to the OB/GYN we found out that because of my ovarian cyst/ torsion and the removal of the ovary I have adhesions/ scar tissue.  Ok, honestly, I knew I had that because I had been sent to the weirdest physical therapy ever to try to break up the adhesions - with pretty good success.  But, because no one had ever actually checked to see if the adhesions had grown into my left fallopian tube I have to have a test done.  Ok, not a problem. Sign me up because the timing was almost perfect for them to schedule the test (it has to be done during certain days of the cycle).

    Well, here is when that pro-active thing again comes to bite me in the rear.  I do my typical thing of starting to research what the test actually is (I am starting to feel like I am going to medical school with all the crazy things that keep getting done and researching what they are) - OH MY GOODNESS!!!!  This test sounds horrible!  Anything that all the descriptions start with "Although somewhat painful..." can't be a good thing.  I have had some really painful things done down at the OB/GYN's office, and I think this test sounds the most painful of any of them.  

    It is called a hysterosalpingogram (notice the hyster in the front, when I read the description of it I became hysterical and cried for about an hour).  Please read the description if you have a strong stomach or your yearly PAP doesn't hurt, otherwise just think of the whole test as a 30 minute long PAP where they are injecting dye into you and just waiting to see if you scream because a tube is blocked or if you are just screaming because you are having dye injected into you.  This is a very simplistic way to look at it, but some how my mind is envisioning a torture chamber.  Especially when I read this line "The woman usually remains on the table for a few minutes to recover from the cramping caused by injection of the contrast."

    Here is what they are looking for, except in my case there won't be anything on the right side except some staples.  From what I have read, if there is blockage the pain is through the roof.  I am thinking staples are going to be considered a blockage and it is really going to hurt even if there is nothing wrong with the left side because there is no where for the dye to go on the right.   

    Here is what I am scared they will find. This picture is of a woman who had her right tube removed due to a tubal pregnancy.  But that lump of dye on the right side is the dye trapped in a pocket in the tube due to adhesions. 

    AJ and I are still debating whether we are going to go through with this test or not.  The pain factor is a big part of it.  With me hurting everywhere else all the time it just seems wrong to actually go to something that is going to add to it.  Also, the idea of having to lay on my back with my legs up in stirrups for 30 minutes makes my knees and back just ache from thinking about it.  Every article I have read said to take a couple of Advil before the procedure to help with the pain.  If a couple of Advil killed pain in me I would be a much happier person, so that is another contributing factor. 

    On the side of is this really necessary, I am torn.  I want to know that things are ok and when we start trying to get pregnant scar tissue isn't going to be a problem, but if it isn't a problem I don't need the test.  There is a mild side benefit.  It seems that if there is any mild blockage having the test done will clean it out.  Also, apparently there is mildly increased rate of fertility for a while after having the test done, too.  I am not sure how long that increased rate really last though.  Any constructive thoughts would be greatly helpful!  

    I know it feels like my blog is turning into some weird form of a medical journal.  In some ways it is, but I figure there are other people out there dealing with this stuff and I am hoping to be honest about it.  I am trying to be really upbeat about everything and still keep it "clean" without getting to graphic.  I hope none of this comes across as complaining about the situations that I am in, because for the most part it isn't.  I wish it wasn't all going on, but it is and at least writing about it helps me process it.  Also, it helps to remind me to be thankful for what I do have and to keep praising God because he is in control of it all, and I know he is working through all of these situations.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Battle of the Bulge - Week 19 - Mild Rebound

    I used to  think I was on a treadmill with the pain and diet.  That I was making progress, but only in my head - kind of like I am a hamster in a wheel.  But, I have decided it is more of a trampoline.  One week I bounce really high and I almost feel like I am flying, then the next I am sunk down next to the ground.  It is very frustrating.  I am off the happy steroids, and having a rebound of the swelling and pain.  There is something really wrong in sleeping for 8-9 hours and waking up feeling like I have run a marathon (not that I have actually done that, but I assume after doing so your body would just ache).  I am trying to be really positive about the fact that some weeks are up and some are down.  At least I have still got some up ones. :)  I just need to learn to look at this as a game and enjoy the up/ flying feeling and know that I will come down, but I will go back up again.

    Last Wednesday was great at therapy.  I had one of the most productive days I have had since this flair started.  Brett (my main therapist) was really happy and all excited.  Then Friday came and I was having a hard time walking on the treadmill again, and about to cry the whole time because I got some frustrating news from the doctor's office.  Luckily, Brett and Mark (the other therapist) have been able to see what is going on and they were really supportive.  The good news is that my back is about as fixed as it can get without surgery, and we are moving into more physical therapy for whole body wellness.  This is really the direction I want to be going in, especially now that we think we know what is going on.  The therapy won't be able to fix this new monster, but it should really be able to help it.

    On the weight loss side - I lost 0.7 lbs this week! Woohoo!!! I was really scared it was going back up these last couple of days because the scale hasn't been my friend.  It has been pointing out that my weight has been affected by the pain and swelling again.  I hate waking up feeling bad and having the scale confirm with a higher number that the pain isn't just in my head.  Which, I will admit I frequently think - at least until my knees start crunching and my hands freeze in weird positions. 

    I am waiting to hear back from the doctor - hopefully today about what is going on.  I do have a post written about it already, but I am still waiting for as final of an answer as we might be able to get.  Then this beast will have a name!

    On the "diet" front we are changing the way we eat again.  I have been doing some research on going gluten-free.  There seems to be a lot of evidence to suggest that cutting out gluten can help with inflammation and thus pain.  We have been trying it for the last week or so, with varying degrees of success.  I am a carb fan, and I haven't found a way to cut out all the gluten yet.  Cereal and baked goods are my down fall.  I don't eat that many of either, but when I have the calories left for them and I am hungry it is really hard to say no.  I bought fruit in a hope that I can make that transition.  We will see how that goes and how well I can stick to a reduced gluten or gluten-free (GF) diet.  Luckily, I have some friends who are GF and they loaned me some cookbooks!

    Score Card:
    Weekly Weight Change : -0.7 lbs
    Weekly Measurements : 0 inches
    Total Weight Change : -22.4 lbs
    Total Measurements : -16.5 inches total body

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Reconciliation : Writing Hurts in the Sand

    A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

    The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:

    They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

    After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:

    The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?" 

    The other friend replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."
    The last week has lead to some interesting thoughts and feelings.  I have a friend who is really turning into a great sharping stone for me.  The more time I spend with her the more I am truly encouraged in my Christian walk and in life in general.  She has provoked some really deep thoughts and self-reflection and she has really challenged me in my faith.  I am really thankful that God has put her in my life at this time in my life and that he is using her as such a wonderful honing tool.

    During my quiet times and self-study this week I have been hit by a couple of things.  One of the biggest ones is that I have some relationships in my life that need to be healed and "re-booted".  I figure if movie series can be re-booted and grow into something amazingly awesome then why can't some of my relationships be the same way?  Especially since I have The Author working with me to do this task?

    I have some relationships that I have been hurt in and instead of actually talking to that  person I have let the hurt grow into serious dislike and contempt.  Others, I have let time and distance grow between us and feel at a loss talking to the person, or worse that they don't really care for me anymore.  I hate actually acknowledging these facts, but they are true.  I don't want to have those feelings inside me anymore.  If I don't like them then I need to be the one that does something about it.

    I have also been feeling really lonely lately, and I know I am  not the only one, but because of the previous issues I am not reaching out to my friends who are in the same boat.  I don't want to be lonely.  I want to be happy and able to share my life with my friends. 

    God has called us to reconciliation, first with himself and then with others.  I am making strides to reconcile myself with my Savior, and return to a relationship with him that I am very happy and proud of.  I am also going to make strides to reconcile with my friends.

    4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. - Phillipians 4:4-9

    If you feel that my relationship needs to be re-booted with you, please let me know.  This is a very serious request, especially since I can only see things from my side of the picture.  I want a peace in my relationships.

    My visitors at work today.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Battle of the Bulge - Week 18 - Relief

    This last week I saw the doctor!  I got some major relief!  I got a shot of prednisone and a week worth of prednisone pills.  Ahhhh!!!  Things haven't been a 100% better, but they have been a lot better.  The swelling has gone down and the pain is a lot less - mostly controllable with Aleve or Advil.  I also got a 99% sure diagnosis.  I am still waiting to get the next round of blood work back before I start blogging on that, but I have been doing all kinds of research on the topic.  

    Being on the medicine has really helped with the weight loss - well with getting rid of the water weight from the swelling.  I lost 2.6 lbs this week!  I have had more energy this week, too.  I have wanted to get out and do things.  That hasn't happened a lot the last month or so.  I also have lost 1 inch off my hips!  My pants are getting bigger!!!  I had to tell AJ that I couldn't wear my jeans any longer the other day because they were too big (they had also stretched out from wearing all morning) and kept falling down.

    I haven't been tracking my calories as well as I should be lately either.  It has been a hit or miss lately, but for the most part I feel like I have been better at watching my portions or limiting my intake better.  That is actually what I want to happen.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life having to count calories, I want to learn to eat normally.  

    Score Card:
    Weekly Weight Change : -2.6 lbs
    Weekly Measurements : -1 inches
    Total Weight Change : -21.7 lbs
    Total Measurements : -16.5 inches total body