Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Dog's Life

In October we found another lump on Kirby's belly, very near the site of the original tumor. We kept a close eye on it, and it began to change so on November 14th I took him back in to the vet. He performed a needle biopsy on the lump, and to no one's surprise it tested positive for mast cell cancer. This is very dismaying as it has only been three months since the last tumors were removed. The vet said that he can remove it, and in fact it would be a little easier than the last one as it is over a bit from his private parts. But he said we have to face the reality that it can and will come back. How many surgeries do we want to put him through? How many surgeries do we want to put ourselves through, not to mention the expense? This type of cancer is incurable, and I honestly don't think the chemotherapy would have made a difference so I am glad we didn't put him through that.

After some discussion, we decided to try putting him on prednisone in addition to the Benadryl and Pepcid AC that he currently takes. The hope is that the prednisone will keep the cancer cells from irritating Kirby to the point that he licks the tumor and forces it into ulcerating like it did last time. This drug can make dogs very hungry and thirsty, and some dogs urinate in the house because they can't control their bladders. We started with a dosage of three pills at a time once a day, which would be modified if he ended up peeing all over the place.

Fortunately, he has tolerated the medicine well. He is drinking and eating more, and also pants a lot. That, too, is a known side effect. Unfortunately, the tumor continued to grow a bit. His prescription was going to run out on the 23rd, the day we were leaving for Washington, DC to be with our kids for Thanksgiving. So I called the vet again to see about refilling the prednisone. He said that drug should have caused the tumor to shrink some, and that it is a bad sign that it grew even while he was on the medication. But I feel it is great that the tumor didn't go crazy in a 48 hour time period like the last one did, so he agreed to renew the prescription to get us through the seven days we would be gone.

The dog sitter called us the night of the 23rd, and she felt the tumor had grown more and was very red. She wanted to let me know that she had called the vet, and he had her adjust the timing of the pills, giving him one in the morning and two at dinner, along with an additional Benadryl mid-afternoon. She felt we would want to know. None of us slept well that night. Jim was even looking into flights to head back home on Thanksgiving Day in case Kirby needed to be hospitalized - or worse. But when I called the sitter the next morning, she was pleased with the change as the tumor didn't look nearly as red as before. She kept him on the new regimen while we were gone, and fortunately that worked out okay.

I honestly did not know if I would get to see Kirby again. I thought for sure based on how the last tumor went that it would ulcerate while we were away, and we would be faced with tough decisions from far away. It was a horrible feeling, and cast a damper on our visit with the kids. The five of us had not been together since last Christmas, so it is a shame that we had this hanging over all of us. But in the end it all worked out and we will just take each day as it comes. For now he is eating and sleeping well, and still wants to go on his daily walks. I don't know how much more time he has to be with us, but I intend to enjoy each and every day we get.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How Does Your Garden Glow?

lighting the way to the Climatron
Beginning in 2013, the Missouri Botanical Garden has offered patrons the opportunity to see the garden in a different light, so to speak, by illuminating the garden. As opposed to the other holiday displays around town, this one allows you to walk through the lights where you have the opportunity to look as long as you like without having cars behind you forcing you to move along. Each year the exhibit has grown, and this year over 1 million LED lights shine through the garden.

As one of the corporate sponsors of the garden, our company was invited to a special preview night on November 16th. After grabbing something to eat and drink in the Ridgeway Center, we made our way outside. The temperature was in the low 60's, which is extremely unusual for St. Louis in mid-November. I expected the place to be packed as it has been the other three years we have attended this event. However, that was not the case, surprisingly. Maybe the early date threw people off. It was great for us as we could take our time with each display, and even experience the photo op locations, which I imagine will be packed once the Garden Glow is open to the public beginning tonight.

If you haven't had the opportunity to visit the Garden Glow, I highly recommend it. It's a totally different way to experience one of my favorite places in St. Louis.

Garden Glow

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Full Super Moon Weekend

Last weekend was super busy. Friday night Jim and I grabbed dinner and then headed to the mall to return an item I had purchased online. Not only was the t-shirt a bit snug, you could see right through it. Not quite the look I was going for, trust me. Jim had a $20 off coupon at the same store, so between my return and his coupon he was able to snag a new pair of jeans for around twenty bucks. Nice!

on stage at the Muny
Saturday morning my friend picked me up at 10:00 and we went to the Garage Sale being held at the Muny in Forest Park. Props, sets, clothes, shoes - you name it were for sale. They were cleaning house for only the second time in their 97 year history. The sale was from 9-2, and I heard that people were standing in line at 5:30 a.m. We were not intending to purchase anything, but thought it would be a fun photo op. And it certainly was that and more. While standing on the stage looking out at all the seats, everything seemed a lot smaller than it does when you are sitting in the audience watching a performance. I always wanted to appear onstage at the Muny, and now I have. Cross that off the bucket list - haha. An older man started talking to us about how he had worked at the Muny for 40 years designing sets. Wow! I even ran into Katie's high school journalism teacher, and we had a nice chat. He had so many wonderful things to say about her even after all these years. I wish I had recorded it so that if she is ever feeling down she could listen to it. Proud momma moment, for sure.
Muny garage sale
From there we went to the Art Museum to have lunch at the Panorama Restaurant. Neither of us had eaten there before, and the food was good with an even better view of Forest Park. While the fall colors in the St. Louis area have been pretty lackluster, things were looking pretty in Forest Park that day.

Forest Park
After lunch we went to the Gretchen Brigham Gallery inside Union Ave. Christian Church for the opening reception of our latest Women in Focus photography show. The gallery space is beautiful, and although the reception was not that well attended, it is always fun to get together with these lovely ladies.

Women in Focus Inspiration show opening

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
Early Sunday morning I drug Jim out of the house to go to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery to take pictures. I was thinking the graves would be decorated with flags, and it wasn't until we got there and saw none that I realized that would be Memorial Day as opposed to Veteran's Day. No matter, it is always a lovely, peaceful place for a drive and the deer are always accommodating. It was touching to see an older man sitting on a low chair next to a gravestone with a woman's name on it, despite the 31 degree weather. Was that his wife buried there? His daughter? We wanted to talk to him, but were hesitant to disturb his solitude.

deer in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
That afternoon I went to the Holiday Walk in Webster Groves with a friend. It was a beautiful day, and lots of people were out. I was able to pick up a couple of Christmas gifts, so that felt pretty good. In the evening Jim and I saw Mothers & Sons in the Studio of the Repertory Theatre. It is a small venue, and the plays down there are always thought provoking. This was no exception. Came home to enjoy a Super Moon finish to a pretty super weekend.

Super Moon

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ode to My Burning Butt

colon pictures
So, I had my first colonoscopy last Friday. I know, I know, I was a "little" overdue. I recently switched to a new physician, and she really pushed me to sign up for the test. In fact, the office scheduled an appointment right then and there. Lest you think I don't take care of myself, I have my skin scanned every six months for skin cancer, have my eyes examined once a year, take my boobs out to be pressed annually, and see the dentist twice a year. It's just the deep, dark hole that I have ignored. We don't have a history of colon cancer in my family, but my dad's sister got a perforated bowel out of her final colonoscopy and lived the rest of her life with a colostomy as the prize. So, I had my reasons for being skittish about the test.

As it turned out, Dr. B. scheduled the test at a hospital that is not the most convenient for me, with a sadist physician who feels that pooping your brains out during one day is not enough, insisting that you get up at 5:00 a.m. on the day of the test and drink some more of the liquid laxative. In the end, pardon the pun, my husband was going to be out of town on the day of the test. As you cannot drive yourself due to the anesthesia, I had to reschedule. At the risk of being the butt of many jokes, I put a message on a local Facebook group requesting recommendations for a more realist doctor, preferably at a closer hospital. My friend Steve came up with the winning combination for me, and I scheduled an appointment for November 4th at the 9:00 time slot. Because of the liquid diet you'll be on, in addition to the liquid that will be flying out of your butt, I recommend getting an early test time.

poop prep
As is customary for me, I did a lot of research to make this test as palatable as possible. My prep as ordered by the doctor included a clear liquid diet on the day before the test, and also drinking a 10 oz. bottle of Magnesium Citrate at noon; 64 oz. of Miralax (a powder that I mixed with Lemonade Crystal Light as I can't stand Gatorade), drinking an 8 oz. glass every 10-15 minutes beginning at 1:00 until it was gone; and then another 10 oz. bottle of Magnesium Citrate at 3:00.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the test I did a low-fiber diet as I had read that doing this helps prevent cramping when you are doing the prep. I have to say, this really worked for me. Wednesday night I put the two bottles of Magnesium Citrate in the refrigerator so they would be cold. On Thursday (prep day) I donned comfortable sweat pants, enjoyed my morning hot tea and some jello, and then laid out my battle gear. I mixed the Miralax and lemonade together and put it in the refrigerator for later, put the Preparation H wipes and ointment in the bathroom, along with my reading material. At 12:00 I poured the Magnesium Citrate into a glass, and squeezed in a slice of lime. I placed about a half teaspoon of sugar on the back of my tongue, and drank the 10 oz. down through a straw as quickly as possible while holding my nose. (The straw helps you bypass many of the taste buds on your tongue.) After the last swallow, I popped an Altoid into my mouth while still holding my nose. After a moment or two I was able to remove my fingers from my nose. There was a slightly salty taste in my mouth, but it was overpowered by the Altoid.

My stomach started gurgling around 12:35, but there was no action for another 10 minutes. Even then I thought it might just be gas, but I hustled to the bathroom just in case. That is not gas - trust me! Get yourself into the bathroom the second you start to feel anything. This is where the sweat pants are worth their weight in gold. Easy off! After that it was time for the first glass of Miralax. I drank that cold through a straw, and there was no discernible taste other than the lemonade flavor. Back to the bathroom! This was the pattern for the next two hours. I just about had time to drink a glass and run to the toilet before it was time to drink another glass. But I got all 64 oz. in. And out!

The worst part was getting down the second Magnesium Citrate at 3:00. I used the same process as the first glass, but it was a struggle as it was making me gag. It may be because it came so close on the heels of the Miralax treatment. For the next 2 hours I was in the bathroom. Despite using a medicated wipe after each go and liberally dabbing on Preparation H cream after each wipe, my butthole was burning. And bleeding. It was terribly painful, and certainly gave new meaning to the expression "Shit fire!" That's exactly what it felt like I was doing. Next time I will try a baby cream like Desitin. As I recall I could get that off my kid's butts (or my hands) without a sandblaster.

By 5:00 I leveled off to going once every half hour, and by 9:45 I was done. Or so I thought. I woke at 5:50 Friday morning, and dashed to the toilet at 6:00. Just like the Energizer Bunny, I was still going. We left the house at 7:00 as I was to arrive at the hospital at 7:30 for a 9:00 procedure. I didn't think I was going to make it. I had my husband drop me off at the door, and before the lady in Endoscopy could even say "Good Morning", I blurted "Where's the closest bathroom?" Fortunately it was right there. Where I'm sure everyone in the waiting room could hear my outburst. Oh well, at least I didn't crap my pants.

I got signed in, and then answered some question before sitting down to wait. I sent my husband off to work as there was no point in him waiting around for three hours. They said they would call him when I was ready to be picked up. At 8:30 I was taken back to what I'll call a cubicle. It had walls on three sides (with its own bathroom, thank heaven), and a privacy curtain across the front. The nurse had me change into a gown, taking off everything except my socks. (A word of advice - don't bring anything of value with you to the hospital. Leave your jewelry and electronic devices at home. All I had with me was my driver's license and insurance card.) After I was done she had me climb on the bed, covered me with two warm blankets, then attached a pulse oximeter to my finger and three heart leads to my chest. Then she inserted on IV line into my right wrist. She asked me some more questions, including had I used any drugs or marijuana recently. When I raised my eyebrows and asked her if people actually answer that honestly, she said "You'd be surprised." Huh. Then she asked if I feel safe at home. Again, my eyebrows shot up. This question was designed to try to detect elder abuse, she told me. Wow. A male nurse came by and asked if he could observe my procedure. It turned out he was a student nurse, so I thought, what the heck. I'm going to be out of it anyway. Then a nurse anesthetist stopped in to go over the anesthesia protocol with me. Sign here, sign there, sign everywhere.

By 8:50 or so they wheeled me into the procedure room where I met the anesthesiologist and finally the doctor who would be performing the colonoscopy. They both went over a few things with me, had me turn on my left side, and then began releasing the anesthesia into the IV line. I remember feeling it take over my brain, not that is was warm or anything but numbing it I guess. The next thing I knew I was being wheeled back into one of the cubicles. They kept the lights out for awhile, and then my doctor came in to let me know that he had found one small polyp, which he removed. That is standard procedure, but it will be sent off to be biopsied as they can be precancerous. But because he found one, he wants me have another colonoscopy in 5 years and not the recommended 10. Yippee. I was also told that I have hemorrhoids. Ya think? After spewing flammable liquid out of my butt for most of Thursday, who is actually surprised by this? He also explained that they pump air in the colon during the exam, so to expect a lot of gas. It made me think of those long circus balloons, and I chuckled to myself. He said to make sure and let it all out. So basically I can fart in public, and people will be happy about it instead of appalled? Awesome!

The nurse offered me something cold to drink, and when I finished my Sierra Mist I was told I could get dressed. Believe it or not, I had to go to the bathroom again. They had told me it would only be air coming out. Wrong! How in the world could there possibly be anything left inside me? Especially since they use a suction device during the colonoscopy? At least people can no longer say I'm full of it.

As I was getting dressed they called Jim to tell him I was ready to be picked up. It was 10:15, so they were right on the money when they said the procedure takes about 30 minutes, and then anywhere from 30-60 minutes for the anesthesia to wear off enough that you can leave. Since he was only 15 minutes away from the hospital, the timing was perfect. They actually let me walk out to the car, instead of being transported in a wheelchair. I was kind of surprised by that. When we got home, I used the bathroom again. Unbelievable...I drank a glass of water and had a bowl of cream of chicken soup with a few crackers to see how that would settle. Then I climbed into bed for a nap. Later in the afternoon I took the dog for a short walk, and I felt fine. I am so happy that this all behind me. (See what I did there?)

The only strange thing that has happened is that I felt a little dizzy at an event Saturday night. As I was only drinking ice water, there was no reason for me to sway like a drunk. But that sensation passed until I woke up Sunday morning. Oh my, was I dizzy! I had to hold onto walls to walk. After looking online to see if sedation anesthesia has this kind of a side effect (it doesn't), I came across a site on vertigo that attributes dizziness to dehydration. As I don't have any other symptoms of a cold or any other ear problem, I have to wonder if my extreme diarrhea for 7 plus hours was the culprit. It is much better today, and I am making an effort to drink more liquids than normal.

So there you have the poop scoop. I've been there, done that, got the pictures to prove it. Go get yours!