Friday, May 31, 2013

This and that

Our a/c unit has been on the fritz since Tuesday afternoon.  The part had to be ordered (of course).  Anyway, the repairman came back this morning with the part and fixed it.  It is a lovely 72 degrees in my den as I sit here, lights ablazing, as I type.  Is "ablazing" a word?  I had kept the blinds and curtains tightly closed and all the lights off to try to keep it as cool as possible in here.  Now I can actually SEE what I'm typing.  Always a plus.

*        *        *

I'm just finishing up an Ann Rule book called Dead By Sunset - Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer?  She does true crime stuff better than almost anyone, and this has been her typical, comprehensive, leave-no-stone-unturned story of a murderer, his victims, and the people who brought him to justice.  This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, just waiting for me to pick it up.  And I'm glad I did.  Good stuff.

*        *        *

It has been so muggy.  I know, I know ... I live in Memphis and it is, after all, nearly June.  But still ... I hate it.  I have had to resort to walking on my treadmill instead of outside, which takes a distant second in my book.  I would so much rather THIS be my view than whatever's on the television.

I got up very early yesterday morning, thinking it would be much cooler and easier to walk, and I was out the door before 7:00 a.m.  The temperature was only 75, which I thought was quite doable.  What I did not check was the humidity, which was at 74%.  I walked a little over a mile and, honestly, thought about calling myself a taxi to pick me up and take me home.  I just can't breathe in that kind of humidity and heat.  It's no better today, so I just finished a mile on the treadmill.  You gotta do what you gotta do, right?

 *        *        *

I've been noticing, and photographing, mailboxes in our neighborhood.  Ours is sort of nondescript, made from the same brick as the house.  I would like to plant something to climb one side of it and give it some pizzazz,  Or, if not pizzazz, at least some interest. 

This one has a baby something planted, and a cute little trellis for it to climb on.  I'll have to check back later in the summer and see if the mystery plant has grown much.

This one has quite a bit going on, maybe a bit too much.

I know this is a light pole and not a mailbox, but the clematis is beautiful just the same.

This one has nothing planted, but isn't the little hole for the newspaper cute?  We need one of those.

This one is actually a little frightening.  Can you even see the mailbox?  There, in the middle! Sure hope their mail carrier is not allergic to honeysuckle.  Although it does smell divine walking past it.  

Anyway, the jury is still out on what we might do to dress our mailbox up. 

More later --

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Resting in peace

There's this nice little church not too far from my house, with a shady, somewhat secluded cemetery behind it.  My walking route early yesterday morning took me past it, so I stepped through the gate and checked out the cemetery.

It is a peaceful, wooded place and quite beautiful.  Some parts of it are neatly laid out and well maintained, like this.

But other parts seem very haphazard and are overgrown and wild, like this.

In case you can't tell, that's a tombstone underneath all that wild honeysuckle.  All things considered though, if I had to choose something to cover my tombstone, I could do a lot worse than wild honeysuckle.

I took my time and just wandered among the graves, reading the tombstones and wondering about the people who are resting there, and what their lives were like.  I was surprised to see some of the graves back to the 1800s.  I studied the markers and wondered what sort of life was contained in that little dash between the dates of birth and death ... what sort of joys and pains, highs and lows, loves and losses did they experience?  Was their life filled with goodness or evil or, like most of us, a combination of the two? 

I saw one stone for a Confederate soldier.

And some that didn't even  have a name.

This was one of the oldest stones I saw.  It's crumbling and has some pretty significant cracks in it.  The date of death is 1882, and I wonder if her family lives on and if they live around here. 

The cemetery even has a swing hanging in it.  Kind of unusual, but there you go. 

Look at this one.  Ada lived only to age 33.  I wonder what took her and what her life was like.

There are some wonderful gnarly old trees that stand as sentries outside this cemetery.  This one, in particular, caught my eye and I took a picture of the base of the tree, about midway up, and straight up toward the top.

I love how it looks like smaller trees have joined forces with the bigger one, to guard and protect those resting inside the fence. 

I loved exploring this little hidden place. I think those who rest here are fortunate to have such a beautiful final resting place.  And maybe, sometime when I need to get away from noise and traffic and schedules, I'll come and visit again.  And sit in that swing.  And swing. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I think he struck a nerve

So I went to my doctor today, and he did a nerve block.  The pain that goes all the way down my leg is coming from one nerve root, and that's where he stuck the needle.  It really wasn't too bad.  The shot to deaden it hurt as much as the actual nerve block did.  Anyway, if it works, it is SO worth it.  My doc said to take it easy the rest of today, and tomorrow I can go back to walking.  It may take a few days for it to take the full effect.  As for me ... I am very, very hopeful!

The magnolia trees are starting to bloom and I pass several on my various routes around the neighborhood, so I thought I'd share some pictures. 

 I always think of magnolias as sort of "majestic" flowers.  Here's a closer look at one. 

 So pretty!

I'll be sure to take pictures as the trees bud out and will share them with you.

Oh, one more picture.  There's a house I walk by which is situated up on a hill and that family has a good sentry guarding their home:

 Can you see him?  He's doing a good job.

More later --   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A rainy day

So, before I got out of bed this morning, I heard the rain.  I have to say that this was one morning I was happy to be home from work and able to snuggle under the covers while the rain drops played their endless patterns of sound above me. 

I expected a pretty lazy morning, since I couldn't get out and walk.  I made my coffee and had a few cups and played on the computer.  But then, I realized it had stopped raining.  I looked online at the local radar and realized we were in a lull between showers.  So I jumped into my clothes and headed out for a walk.  I got in a good walk, just over a mile, and not long after I got back I heard thunder.  The rain wasn't far behind.  I'm really glad I got the one walk in. 

Ordinarily, I would not let the rain stop me from walking.  But I am so afraid of slipping or tripping and falling and hurting my back that I have decided no walking in the rain for now.

Before I update my back situation, I want to say that I do not intend for this blog to turn into my personal health journal.  But, since the back surgery, my health is sort of front and center of my thoughts at any given moment of the day.  I promise, I will soon be back to posting about other mundane small stuff, besides me, myself, and I.  

I am now into my 5th week since surgery, and I have come a l-o-n-g way.  I still am having pain down my right leg (especially when I am sitting), but other than that, I feel great.  I'm still taking the Neurontin and have begun taking it twice a day.  It still makes me sleepy, but not nearly as much as it did a week ago.  So I think I'm getting adjusted to it.  My hip pain is completely gone after receiving the steroid shot into my bursa, yay!  Over all, I think I'm doing great. 

During my walk today, I picked some honeysuckle growing on the edge of a vacant lot on our street.  I do believe honeysuckle is my all-time favorite scent in the world.  I put it in a short little glass and it is now making my kitchen smell wonderful.

Another fun thing I saw during my walk today was a woman walking FIVE little doggies!  Five!!  I asked her if I could take a picture and she said sure.  So here they are in all their cuteness.

And, to all the dog breed experts out there, what are they?  Besides adorable, that is.  And they were being SO good.  I could not imagine five Chances, that's for sure.  Sometimes I can't even handle one.

More later --

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon

It is a very beautiful day here in Memphis, TN.  However, I am so sad to say that the HEAT and HUMIDITY have arrived.  We have been very, very fortunate this year to have had such a mild Spring.  I remember last year, we were breaking temperature records in March, with highs in the upper 90s.  Horrible...  So this year has been downright magical in comparison.

I got out this morning and walked for a mile.  That may seem like a pittance to you, but it is a huge milestone (pun intended) for me, and I am feeling very thankful and blessed to be able to do it.  The medicine combined with the shot I got into my hip joint are working beautifully, and I am walking with only a little hip and leg pain.  Very manageable at this point. 

I haven't posted any pictures in a few days so I want to rectify that and catch you up on what's been going on.  First of all, Chance got his summer buzz cut:

Yesterday was my sweet hubby's birthday.  We went out to dinner with friends to celebrate, then came back to the house for ice cream cake.  His favorite -- chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip ice cream:

Also yesterday, on the way to pick up the ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins, I stopped at our local Holliday's Florist to use my flower card to get the May flower bouquet.  But, the woman there told me she was out of flower card flowers!  My mouth fell open.......really?  A flower shop out of flowers?  At any rate, she said "Hold on, I'll find you something," and she gave me a little pot of flowers for my May gift.  As she said, these are better than a bouquet.  They will last a lot longer, and even come back again and again.  I was very happy.  The flowers are called "kalanchoe."  I've never seen them and was happy to get them.

More later --

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Onward by all means

So I saw the nurse practitioner at my surgeon's office this morning.  Can I just say how much I like Amy?  She is wonderful.  Anyway, they took x-rays and my hardware looks awesome.  No problems whatsoever with it.  This was a huge relief to me, as I have read horror stories online about people with broken screws, etc. in their fusion hardware.  Truly the stuff of nightmares and I am relieved beyond words to know that mine is all good. 

As for the hip and leg pain, Amy thinks there are two separate issues at hand.  One is bursitis in my hip.  This has actually been going on a long time.  Months before the surgery, I was concerned about my hip pain, but decided that I could only deal with one thing at a time, and the back surgery came first.  I thought once my back was fixed, then if the hip was still an issue, I could see about doing something for it.  The crazy thing is, I did not for one minute imagine that my pre-existing hip issue was related to the current pain.  But Amy thinks it is definitely a component of what's going on.

So she gave me an injection right into the hip bursa (ouch) and said that should relieve some of the discomfort and allow me to lay on my right side again.  However, she warned that it may get worse for a day or two, just from the shot itself, before it starts calming down.  Okay.

She believes that the rest of my pain is nerve-related.  There is a possibility that scar tissue is forming and is aggravating the nerve, but that is not a certainty by any means.  She is calling in a prescription for Neurontin, to see if that will help with the pain.  If it's not better in a week or so, the next step is an injection directly to the nerve root. 

Amy said that, all things considered, I am doing really well.  She was proud of my walking and commented that she could tell I've lost weight since the surgery (yay!).  She said I have had more than my share of "glitches" and that it seems nothing comes easy for me (I thought that was just me), but that I had a great attitude and that will help me get through all of this. 

I feel much better after seeing her and getting a plan in place to deal with this hurdle.  I told Amy I truly considered this surgery to be a turning point for me, and I want more than anything to move forward from this point to a healthier, more active lifestyle. 

So..........onward by all means!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A bump in the road

So, I've hit what I hope is just a bump in the road to healing.  Since waking up from surgery, I have had pain in my right leg.  It was fairly significant in the hospital, and many times when I requested a pain med, it was due to the leg pain.  Finally, last week I called the doctor's office and talked to them about it.  They called in a prescription for a steroid dose pack, in the hopes that it would calm down the nerve that runs down my leg and decrease the pain.

Unfortunately, the opposite occurred.  Since taking the dose pack, the pain has increased.  Yesterday was the worst day yet.  It felt like electric shocks in my right hip/butt with burning pain going down the back of my thigh and ending up at my ankle.  Very unpleasant and SO not conducive to walking.  I had been doing really well with the walking, tracking my walks online and keeping up with the distances.  I was up to about 1.6 miles each day.  But yesterday, I only got out once to walk and ended up at about .64 of a mile.  Very discouraging.  It just hurt too much to walk. 

So...I called the doctor's office again this morning and explained what is going on.  I have an appointment Wednesday morning to get it checked out and get an x-ray.  Needless to say, the internet is full of horror stories of back surgery gone wrong, and I am trying my best to stay positive and focused, and just look at this as a bump in the road, unless and until I know it to be anything else.  Today is my four week anniversary of the surgery, and I really hoped to be past the worst of the pain by this time.

In other news, I went into the bedroom today and saw a lump in the covers on the bed.  Lo and behold, an unnamed kitty was burrowed under there, sound asleep.  Funny boy.  I didn't get a picture of that, but here's one of him from the other night. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My new full time job

I am continuing to make progress in my recovery from back surgery.  And, it occurred to me this morning while I was out walking that healing well is my new full time job.  I am spending most of my waking hours working toward that goal.  And truth be told, it requires a big commitment.

My one hindrance has been the pain in my right leg.  It started immediately after surgery, and it bothered me the whole time I was in the hospital.  Then, since I have been home it has continued pretty much nonstop, except if I combine a pain pill with a muscle relaxer.  That usually stops the pain, but it also kicks my butt and I can't do anything at all.  I hate feeling medicated!

Also, I continue to have numbness and tingling down both legs.  Once I got out and started walking, it became more pronounced and, frankly, freaked me out and scared me to death.  So, I put in a call to my surgeon's office and talked to them about both of these issues.

As for the numbness and tingling, they explained to me that nerves are very slow to heal.  And my nerves have been impinged upon for a long time due to the spondylolisthesis -- years.  So it's going to take time for them to recover.  It will be a gradual process over a period of several months.

Hearing that greatly relieved my mind, and it sounds perfectly logical to me.  Now, each time I walk, I try to gauge the numbness -- does it start as quickly as it used to?  Is it as bad as it used to be?  I think the answer to both of those questions is no.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe.  But I prefer to call it Hopeful Thinking.  Every time I walk, I try to visualize the back fusing together properly, and all the nerves and joints and muscles and vertebrae healing together perfectly.  It is very, very important to me to keep a positive attitude and spirit.

As for the pain in my leg, the nurse practitioner told me she suspected that nerve root got aggravated during the surgery.  She called in a one-week steroid dose pack which will hopefully calm that nerve and give me some relief.  I started them last night and so far, can't tell any difference.  So I hope it will kick in soon!

Before I sign off for today, let me show you a few more pretty pictures I took with my phone camera during my neighborhood walks the past couple days.  I love the flowers!

More later --

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Slow and steady wins the race

After undergoing back surgery, I have some important restrictions that are critical to ensuring the success of the spinal fusion.  The doctor told me to remember it as "BLT" -- no unnecessary Bending, no Lifting of anything that weighs more than a carton of milk, and no Twisting of my torso allowed.

The bending is proving to be a little tricky.  I have a handy dandy grabber thingy that Steve bought for me, and it works quite well on small objects.  It does NOT, however, work on ice cubes.  And, not to veer off the subject too sharply, but please tell me I am not the only person who just cannot seem to get ice out of the freezer without dropping a piece.  ugh...

At any rate, I am doing my dead level best to abide by those restrictions.  They will be in place until the vertebrae are completely fused together -- probably three to four months.  After the bones are knitted together, though, then it will be a good thing to put some stressors on them.  The surgeon said that will make them stronger. 

The one activity that my surgeon says will help me heal more than anything else is walking.  His goal for me is to be able to walk two miles a day by eight weeks out from the surgery.  Tomorrow will be three weeks to the day from my surgery, and I think I am making tremendous progress toward that goal.  Every day I try to walk multiple times.  Today I got outside three times and took three different routes.  I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood that is very walker-friendly.  There is a steady stream of walkers, runners, bike riders, and dog walkers out at any given time. 

This time of year, it's lovely to walk and look at all the flowers in bloom.  So I thought I would share some shots I captured with my phone today during my outings.

This looks like a peaceful place to sit with a book and a cup of coffee.

And last, but not least, I think this house has the prettiest front porch on our street. 

I'm really thankful to have such a beautiful neighborhood to appreciate while I walk.  It makes my walks, no matter how slow they are, something that I truly enjoy.

More later --

Friday, May 3, 2013

My spine surgery saga

So, on Monday, April 15th, I went in to the hospital for a two-level spinal fusion and lumbar laminectomy.  The decision to have surgery was a hard one to make, and one that I avoided for years, hoping that my numbness and pain would just get better on its own.  But of course, it did not, and never would.  I finally had to ask myself if I was willing to spend the rest of my life with the limitations I have at age 53 with walking and standing.  The answer to that question was easy ...... NO!  And, once I knew that surgery was the only option available to improve my quality of life, then the decision to move forward came much easier to me.

So, I went into surgery about 1:00 that afternoon.  It lasted five hours, and I spent about an hour in recovery before finally ending up in a room that night.  I really don't remember anything before waking up in my room with Steve right there beside me.  I know that day was a long, hard one for him - much harder than it was for me.

The surgeon talked to Steve afterward and said everything looked good and I should be on track to heal nicely.  Upon waking, I remember the pain not being unbearable at all and I recall thinking that the drugs must be good because I was pretty comfortable.  Until about 2:00 a.m. that night, that is.

I was turning over in bed and, all of a sudden, my head started pounding.  It was pain that I've never felt before and, please God, never want to ever feel again.  It felt like the back of my head was going to explode.  Steve got the nurse in right away, and she told me, "Push your pain pump," which I did.  I was literally thrashing around in the bed, which, of course, aggravated my incision area and caused it to start hurting.  It was a nightmare being lived out in real life.

The nurse put in a call to my doctor and he called back immediately.  He told her that he suspected it was a spinal fluid leak and to keep me flat in the bed for the time being.  In the meantime, my pain went away once I was able to lie still for awhile and once the meds kicked in.  The surgeon explained to me the next day that I had a particularly large bone spur on one of my vertebrae, and it actually was protruding into the dura mater (the delicate sac that contains the cerebrospinal fluid).  He had to get rid of that spur, and in doing so, nicked the dura mater.  He plugged it immediately and only a tiny amount of fluid actually leaked out.  He truly thought that it would not cause any symptoms due to the tiny size of the actual leak.

He told me this is not a common occurrence at all.  (I had to laugh because, if it's going to happen to anyone, it will happen to me.)  At any rate, the doctor's order was for me to lie flat until the fluid was reabsorbed and the headaches went away.  This was a big setback in my mind, because I was all geared up to get up that next day (Tuesday) and start walking and start my healing process.  Instead, I ended up lying flat in the bed for three days before I was allowed to get up.  The horrible headache would come back if I lifted my head at all, so I did my part and complied with the doctor's order.

Finally, on the day we thought I would be going home, I got to stand and take a few steps.  My equilibrium and blood pressure were all messed up, though, and I only made a few steps before having to stop and sit down.  I ended up sitting up for several hours that day, because the physical therapist said it would help me get used to being vertical instead of completely horizontal, and it would help me be able to walk without passing out.  (Always a plus, don't you think?)

The next day (Saturday), I was able to walk down the hall a good ways and back.  YAY!  It kicked my butt, though, and I felt like I'd just run a marathon.  Then, finally, on Sunday I got to go home.  Home.  Such a lovely word.  And, not to be too terribly sappy, but there is truly no place like it.  :)

More later --