ritaxis: (hat)
[personal profile] ritaxis
I am low-energy, distractable, lazy, diffident, tentative, and easily discouraged to begin with. I began 2016 thinking I would ride the energy and optimism from my lovely new knees to Get Things Done, Get In Shape, and Get A Job.

I was doing pretty good until February, when I got the cancer diagnosis.

My treatment's gone pretty well--my side effects have been mild--but my response to any setback is to lie in bed doing puzzles. Still, I've written a couple of stories, made progress on a few more, and, well, I can't keep up the rosy report, honestly, I'm disappointed. Getting switched from regular Covered California insurance to Medi-Cal (Medicaid) was also a problem as I don't know what will happen to me if I sell anything. Well, in one sense Trump's victory is liberating: it's possible I'm going to lose it all anyway, though in California we may keep it because we were a couple steps away from single payer here already. If people don't get distracted by secession talk. (spoiler: secession is a terrible idea) I haven't done the final edit and submission on The Drummer Boy (I may have lost all my confidence on it?), but I submitted a couple stories.

So where am I physically? Done with chemotherapy, done with radiation, about to start hormone blockers and also to enroll in a study for a drug currently used for advanced metastatic breast cancer which they want to see how it does for women with early cancer like me. It remains to be seen whether I'll be in the test group or the control group (it's not blinded so I will know which group I am in). My current excitement is all about my bones.

My vitamin D levels have dropped dangerously, probably because of the cancer medication but maybe also because of the stuff I take for acid reflux. I just had a bone density test and I have my Suspicions because of some things that have happened this year. I have dropped in height from 5'2+1/2" (which I only achieved at the age of 38: I graduated high school at 5'+1/2") to 5'1+1/2" a few years ago and now to 5'+1/2", and apparently losing more than an inch per decade is worrisome, and I've lost two inches in less than a decade, probably. I'm not entirely sure because who measures their height very often as an adult? So that's two worrisome facts, the vitamin D and the height loss.

Adding to the excitement is that I had a weird incident earlier this year where I felt like I had a sustained static-electric shock in the base of my neck and the base of my spine at the same time. It was so weird that I went to urgent care where they found nothing particularly wrong with me, but they did xrays at both ends of the spine & uncovered what I had already known but forgotten about because my back hardly ever bothered me & before this never mysteriously: I have an old fracture or two in the neck vertebrae, a couple-few bulging or damaged disks, some bone spurs, and a stenosis in one or another of the lower vertebrae. The thing is, you can have all of these things and never have any trouble to speak of in your back. Spines are really mysterious and the usual response is to strengthen the muscles around them because surgery and medicine are both very iffy in this area.

Okay, my back got better for a while but honestly I've spent a tremendous amount of time this year in bed, either for my usual neurotic reasons or because chemotherapy is exhausting. So I wasn't too surprised or upset when I developed what I think of as a punched pinched nerve somewhere in the upper back (symptoms in neck, under the scapula, and on the upper arm), but I have been intermittently exercising and resting those bits. The upper back thing responded really well to exercises, but today I tweaked it using a shovel or maybe bringing in the laundry & I just got up from lying flat for almost an hour to relieve it, which mostly worked. I've gone as far as Vicodin on some occasions, though, just for an indication of how serious it is.

You can see where I'm going with all this. I'd never thought of myself as being at risk for osteoporosis or osteomalacia (the bone softening that comes from vitamin D shortage), and I do not know at this moment whether I actually have either of these things. I hadn't thought of myself as being at risk because I have a relatively high calcium diet, I am heavy so bones get stimulated to grow--also I have very big bones for my size, and I don't often use sunscreen (I have been suspicious of it all along, and I almost never burn). But now I'm afraid I have one or the other or both. I decided for my sanity to stop worrying about whether and just decide I probably do have it, and look up the recommendations for diet, exercise, etc. There's a pretty rigorous program in Germany which I'm going to study but I probably don't have the focus to emulate closely. So far I understand it's a mixture of weight-bearing, weight-lifting and endurance/aerobic exercises. There's an impact component called "bone loading" but if you already have osteoporosis you're supposed to go more gently with it to avoid compression fractures.

I find out the results in a week and a half or two weeks. Until then, I'm just trying to up my walking regime and maybe carry more, which is easy since I don't have a car anymore (hopefully I'm going to arrange for one in a bit rather than go permanently carless just yet). I'm at about two miles most days--average mile and a half or so?--I'll want to get it to an average of two miles, I think. I wanted to do this anyway for my knees. Also, I wanted to walk more so I could walk more, if you understand--there are times I want to go for really long walks and if my normal walks are longer then my extraordinary ones can be longer still. Like when I'm touristing, or when I want to spend more than a couple hours in the forest.

This was the year I started on a BiPap machine. The sleep test was pretty dramatic. My breathing stopped about every minute and a half, and my oxygen desaturated down into the lower-mid eighties several times an hour, even with the machine on. That last concern apparently went away after I'd been on the machine for a couple of months. We did a home oxymeter test and my oxygen was good enough for the doctor. I'm still not that well adjusted to the machine, though. It dries my mouth out to a painful degree even when my mouth stays pretty well closed and I use a ton of biotene gel, which wakes me up after a few hours. So I haven't gotten to the 6-8 hours a night usage. I'm still at the 4-6 hours a night level. The painful pressure on my lumpy nostril seems to be better, though.

So anyway, 2016 was for me like many others mostly a loss. I haven't mentioned much about the big world because others have more, and more eloquent, things to say about tt. I'm still alive, of course, and I still have a house. Also I have a pile of writing I'm sort of working on for several days at a time before I collapse in on myself for a few days again.
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