Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm back!!!!!!

I haven’t made a blog entry in quite a while. At least for part of the time, I do have a good a excuse.

This year has been a challenging one for me. I checked into the hospital on January 1st due to getting bitten by Claudia, one of my rescued cats, after I had stepped on her in the dark. I don’t blame her for reacting in that manner………..I could have seriously injured her. While in the hospital a number of friends stepped in to take over my daily duties of letting the dogs out, feeding the herd of critters and cleaning litter boxes. That stay didn’t last terribly long and I returned home in about a week.

Then in February I had to euthanize sweet, goofy little Clark. The following month I lost Charlotte unexpectedly, another sweet little kitty. Charlie, another cat, was losing way too much weight so he went to the vet. The wonderful folks at The Cat Hospital of Orlando, in Altamonte Springs, saved his life and he’s gradually putting some of his weight back on. His brother Chaz wasn’t looking too good, so he went to The Cat Hospital. He was suffering from ear problems and needed the rest of his teeth pulled. Due to the expensive visits for both Charlotte and Charlie, I chose to wait awhile before proceeding with another major expenditure. In late July, my oldest cat, Cammie, who had been declining over the past year, finally reached the point of no return. I took her in to be euthanized. 2010 was shaping up to be a pretty rotten year for me and my critters. Chaz is currently back at The Cat Hospital being treated for tumors in his ears and recovering from the teeth extractions. We’re waiting for a histology report to determine the next course of action. Keep your fingers crossed that his tumors are benign.

On August 12th I noticed a cyst in my right breast. I’ve been prone to cysts, mostly under my arms, since I was in college. Over the years only 2 had to be lanced and drained. The others generally resolved themselves after some pain, discomfort and aggravation for me so I didn’t get concerned over this latest one, although it was in a previously untouched location. By Monday, the 16th, I knew I needed to see a doctor. This was different. Nearly half of my breast was inflamed and the pain was approaching unbearable. My primary care physician wasn’t available and the doctor her office referred me to couldn’t see me for 4 days. I decided to go to Centra Care. The doctor there chose to lance the cyst and put a wick in it so that it would drain. I was instructed to return on Saturday. As the days passed, the inflammation continued to spread along with the pain. I called Centra Care on Wednesday and was assured that since I wasn’t having other symptoms (fever, chills, shortness of breath) that Saturday was fine for a return visit. After talking to them again on Thursday, I decided to go in early. A new doctor took one look at my breast and told me to head to the emergency room and let them know that I needed surgery – STAT!

I chose to go to Florida Hospital this time, for two reasons. My diabetes doctor is across the street from the hospital and affiliated with them and, as a Seventh Day Adventist hospital, they – once upon a time – had a great cafeteria with terrific vegetarian food. Boy, was that decision a bad one. I couldn’t get my nurses or any of the many attending physicians to call my endocrinologist and the food was the worst that I’ve ever eaten – including college food service slop. In fact, it took 4 days and conversations with several nutritionists and food service administrators to even get vegetarian food served to me. I ended up eating a lot of cereal and salad. A friend brought me microwaveable soup, non-rancid cottage cheese and homemade spaghetti with marinara sauce to give me decent food to eat.

I had my first surgery on Friday, Aug 20th and my fourth surgery on Wednesday, Sept 8th. All of the skin on my breast was removed. Sometime, in the near future, I will have to go back into the hospital for reconstructive surgery and skin grafts. This will be done by a plastic surgeon. I never, ever expected to employ the services of a plastic surgeon. Plastic surgery to me is most often a ridiculous exercise in vanity in an attempt to disguise the inevitable march of time. We all get older, get wrinkles and sagging. No one is 18 forever. Any man who expects his wife/girlfriend to look the same and remain youthful year after year isn’t a man worth keeping around. GET A CAT or even a dog. They will remain loyal, continue to love you regardless of how many wrinkles you develop or how far things slide as gravity drags everything down to your ankles.

While much of this 23 day experience was a nightmare, there were three very bright and wonderful things to be grateful for. First and foremost, I have a terrific group of friends. Led and organized by Sandra Rogers, who set up a schedule for folks to come to my home and care for my cats and dogs. Someone came daily to let the dogs go outside, scoop out litter boxes, shop for supplies and feed the ravenous herd. This was on top of very busy schedules for these folks: many work full time, some are taking classes, others have lots of outside interests from running to organizing/coordinating animal rights activities/protests, working with feral cats, whether trapping, caring for colonies or helping others get traps or schedule appointments for spay/neuter surgeries, plus caring for their own group of cats and/or dogs. Additionally, nearly all of them live 15 – 20 miles from my home. Please give Sandra, Carla, Elie, Marcy, Nancy, Melissa, Judy, Aaron, Diane, Barbara, Laurel & Paula a standing ovation. Upon my return all but two or three of my furry monsters seemed not to have missed me at all. Apparently I’m more easily replaced than I thought. Of course, cats are notorious for carrying a grudge when they feel they’ve been deserted. All of them have since come around.

The other thing that I’m grateful for are the wonderful staff of the Hyperbaric Oxygen group at Florida Hospital. These folks give each patient personal, caring treatment. They are concerned for your well being and recovery. They should be held up as models to the rest of the hospital staff as examples of how to interact with patients, make them feel like a person and not just another number. These folks work well together and seem to enjoy their jobs. Regardless of the how my day had gone so far, I always felt better once I arrived there for my daily treatments. Even after my release from the hospital, I’ve continued with my treatments each week day.

Probably mostly due to the near hunger strike I was on, I managed to lose 23 pounds (a pound a day) while in the hospital. Now I just need to lose the other 70 that will get me into a relatively normal range for my height. I wasn’t permitted to smoke while in the hospital and withdrawal wasn’t easy. I had more than a few temper tantrums and crying fits, but survived. Since leaving, I’ve fallen off the wagon but am determined to quit after 42 years of inhaling a pack a day. I could use the extra money and I know I’ll feel better and recover more rapidly without smoking. It will be tough, but I will do it this time. I’m back on the patch and haven’t smoked more than a few cigarettes a day since putting the patches on. I also plan to do better about blogging on a more regular basis.