When Sick Days Were Fun

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I loved being home from school because I was sick. I didn’t get sick that often, but when I was… well, jackpot. Sure, I felt like crud, but there was something comforting about hanging out in my pajamas, watching television, and eating lunch on the couch. A great little break from the normal routine.

Bad HousesNow that I’m an adult, sick days are not nearly so entertaining. In the back of my head I always think, “Well, I hate being sick, but at least I get to be at home all day. That’s not so bad.” But of course, it’s never a good time. If I’ve given up and stayed home, chances are I’m lying down for half of the time feeling miserable, or at the very least moving at one-quarter impulse power. Usually the most “fun” I have involves watching an episode of something or another on the DVR, but half the time I don’t even make it to the end because the mental effort is too much and I just go take a nap instead.

(The one notable exception: when I had my gallbladder out at the end of 2008. Don’t get me wrong, I was really sore and spent a day or two doped up on pain pills. But by day 4 or so of a one-week “you must stay at home” the pain had shifted to a dull ache, and I spent the rest of the week playing Animal Crossing: City Folk on the Wii. That was remarkably fun for those last few days.)

But anyway, I do try to make sick days as “enjoyable” as one can under the circumstances. Since I’m at home today with some sort of chest crud, I tried to rally a bit. Made my favorite kale-apple-miso salad for lunch, dug out and brewed some fancy loose leaf tea that Karon gave me as a gift, read the first 50 pages of Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil’s Bad Houses. It’s not high living, but it makes the overall sick experience less… well… sickly.

Really, all I was missing from my old “being sick” ritual was a big bowl of Chicken & Stars soup, which for far too long was a comfort food for when I was under the weather. (I’ve since burnt out on it.) So all in all, certainly could be worse. Anyone else have a particular sicktime ritual or comfort?

Five Things That Make Me Happy (part 16)

Back to Swimming
Despite swimming being “highly recommended” as exercise while recovering from my stress fracture, the last time I’d actually gone to the pool was back in January. Happily, Charlie gave me the nudge that I needed to finally start moving forward again, and we’ve been hitting the pool 2-3 times a week before work. My overall speed isn’t where it should be, but that’s what happens when you take six months off, right? All in all, though, it’s felt great to finally get back to the pool and start swimming some laps. My mile time might need some improvement, but I’m also glad that I can swim a mile without stopping again.

Ceiling Fan
There are a lot of things that I love about our condo, but one of the few things that has driven me crazy since day one was that there’s no air-return on the upper level (where the living room/kitchen area is located). With an 11-foot ceiling, that’s meant that hot air easily travels up there and then just stays put. We’d bought a fan to turn on when it gets too warm as an emergency measure, but this month we finally sprung to have a ceiling fan installed. I’m not going to lie, the installation was problematic and actually took two appointments with an electrician (plus someone to then repair drywall and re-paint) but now that it’s done? It’s fantastic. It’s been a transformative shift to our upstairs. Just having the air moving has made all the difference, and the fan itself looks great to boot. (Amusingly, when I first turned it on, for about five minutes it blasted hot air down at me, to the point that I almost started to majorly freak out. Later it hit me that it was finally getting all that trapped heat out of the top of the room that a fan on the floor would never touch.)

The End of Physical Therapy
I actually really enjoyed my PT sessions, which I often joked stood for “personal trainer” rather than “physical therapy.” Jackie definitely worked me over good each week, and she’s pretty great to boot. But I won’t deny that I’m glad it’s over, because it means that the long saga of the stress fracture appears to be finally over. I got a six-mile run under my belt towards the end of July, and finishing it with no problems was a huge relief. Of course, in an effort to remind me not to be too cocky, I then went and broke my little toe at the end of the month by stubbing it on a chaise lounge, so I’m back off running for the month of August. Ah well!

Rediscovering Debbie Dreschler
Debbie Dreschler’s two graphic novels from back in the day—Daddy’s Girl and Summer of Love—were hard to read. Not because they were badly created (they weren’t) but because the subject matter was rather disturbing and emotionally raw in places. Since Summer of Love Dreschler more or less vanished off of the comic book scene, so I was pleased as punch to recently discover her website and her blog. Her website shows the professional illustration work she’s been producing since then, and it looks great. Even better, she’s also got some adorable greeting cards for sale. (I might have bought a set.) Her blog has been serving up some sketchbook drawings of hers involving local wildlife, and all I can say is that she just gets better and better with time. (Debbie Dreschler: a fine wine of cartooning.)

Much-Needed Vacation
We went on a short vacation near the end of the month to Lost River, West Virginia, where we did… absolutely nothing. It was marvelous. Lots of sitting by the pool reading books (E.M Forster’s Howards End and the amusingly-named Showcase Presents: Showcase Vol. 1 were both read, plus another large chunk of Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar), some swimming, a massage, and eating all sorts of foods that are perhaps not great for me. But it was vacation, we got to relax, and the only schedule we had to worry about was when we’d scheduled our massages and what time our dinner reservation one night was set for. (And when I say “worry” I mean “we didn’t worry one iota.”) Any trip where you can accidentally break a toe and still think, “What a great time” is a good one.

Pop Stars, Inane Girl Groups, and Doctor Who Monsters

Today I had my long-delayed next step of my oral surgery, to replace two teeth that have been causing me problems ever since I cracked one of them while on a trip to Italy back in 1999. (It’s a long story involving root canals that eventually failed, got repaired, failed yet again, and finally had first one and then both teeth extracted.) Now that it had been long enough since the extractions, the order of the day was to put posts in that will hold the implants in place. In doing so, I learned three things today.

1) Dentists, when they get bored, like to dress their patients up like a mixture of Bono and Telly Savalas while telling them it is part of the prep work to apply a topical anesthetic. Do not be fooled. This is entirely for their own amusement, nothing more.

2) The lyrics to the Girls Aloud song “Long Hot Summer” are rather vapid, but the line that I’ve sneered at in particular (and there are so very very many to do so, despite the fact that I love the song) is “…and I’m shakin’ like a cool lemonade.” Well, it doesn’t matter how much I don’t feel pain during the procedure, and how good the dentist/oral surgeon is (he’s actually rather excellent), I was shakin’ like a cool lemonade the entire time. Seriously, I could feel myself trembling for most of it. I’m fine with teeth cleanings and the like, but I’ve had several horrible dental procedure experiences that I am pretty sure have mentally scarred me for life. It probably goes back to the time they were removing teeth in preparation for braces. I have been told by enough people to “never tell that story again” so I’ll spare you the details, save for the line, “and as my head snapped back, the dentist and hygenist shot backwards across the room and slammed into the far wall.”

Daleks in my Mouth

3) It turns out when they put dental implants in your mouth, they are really putting miniature Daleks inside you. The Dalek invasion has begun! Who knew? Not me!

Now if you don’t mind, it’s time for me to take a vicodin and hang out with an ice pack…

A Month Later

I’m bad, sometimes, about updating my blog. (Ok, most of the time, these days.) But I am alive, honest. But since the last update over here… let’s see…

The Columbia Triathlon went well (full report here), despite some horrific thunderstorms the night before that had me on about three hours sleep, and rain that only stopped right before I got into the water, resulting in slick roads. The hills were much harder than I’d imagined, and I did better on the cycling and worse on the running than I’d thought. (Swimming I came in a matter of seconds after my projected finish time.)

I’d signed up for the DC Triathlon as well, which was today, but I ended up not running it. I thought it would be fun; a much flatter course, going through places I knew, and a promise of some great crowd support. But soon after Columbia, I came down with… well, that’s still up in the air to be honest. I wish I knew. All I know for certain was it meant I was feeling run down and tired for about three weeks. We’re not talking about, “I could use a nap” but rather “I feel like I’m going to collapse.” I tried to run one day and actually felt light-headed and dizzy. Maybe some sort of cold bug? (It never did give me other classic cold symptoms, though.) A strange lack of iron? Too much Super Mario Galaxy 2? Whatever it was, though, it killed the DC Tri for me. I had little running, one spinning class (and no actual cycling), and until two days ago no swimming under my belt, post-Columbia. Add in a high of 95 degrees today and it just seemed like the stupidest thing possible. I’m regretting not being able to run the race, but am also convinced and glad that I made the right decision to cancel my plans.

I’m also at this point unsure on if running the Toronto Half Marathon will actually happen or not. I might have to find a local race to tackle instead, which is going to mean doing some research in the next month or two to figure out what’s even an option. I know the Baltimore Half Marathon exists, if you don’t mind hills. But surely there are some other choices available. We’ll see.

On the bright side, it did mean that last night instead of going to bed at 8pm, I instead went to the movies with Charlie and we saw Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Joan Rivers is one of those women who until about five years ago I really knew nothing about. Sure, I knew she was a comedian, I knew she hosted red carpet events, but that was about it. But as I’d started to learn a bit about her stand-up and her general trailblazing nature, I’ve found her to be much more than the joke she was usually written off as by the public. Well, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows all that and more. She’s one of those people who just can’t stop working; it’s actually a little exhausting at times to watch her schedule unfold! The documentary is also rather sad in places, much more than I’d have expected. Really good, try and catch it if you can.

Then again, the last few movies I’ve seen have all been excellent. The City of Your Final Destination (a Merchant Ivory film that’s been done for a while but is just now getting released in the States) was absorbing, and Micmacs (the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet film) was sweet and funny and unpredictable. Still dying to see Toy Story 3, soon. Finally, good movies!

Other than that, a boring life. Which is better than a drama-filled life, right?

Nine Down

I’ve now had nine “adult” teeth removed, although on the bright side each extraction has gotten easier. The first four removed were from back when I had braces as a teenager. As part of the re-arranging of my mouth, they had to come out. Two of them came out quickly, but the other two had double-roots and weren’t so willing to budge. I still have vivid memories of a dental hygienist holding my head in place, while the dentist and a second dental hygienist simultaneously tugged at the stubborn tooth. When it finally came free, they shot backwards across the office and slammed into a wall. Meanwhile, I had so much novocaine pumped into my face that my eyelids were asleep.

The next four were my wisdom teeth, which came out in 1993. It actually wasn’t a bad experience; the teeth came almost all the way in (and were actually cutting up the sides of my mouth) so there was very little cutting that needed to be done. A new extraction, though, happened yesterday. Years ago after a tooth cracked, I needed to have a root canal that went through two teeth. (Eek.) It started bothering me this summer, so I went to an endodontist who was able to fix the one closer in that was causing pain. Unfortunately, the other one (which wasn’t actually causing any pain) needed to come out. So after a lot of delaying, I finally bit the bullet.

Pre-Extraction [365portraits: 312]I have to give the oral surgeon credit, that was much less painful than I’d imagined. I’d been warned that the tooth was brittle (as all root canal teeth are) so I “might hear some cracking noises.” Eeek. I had mental images of the tooth shattering in the process and then them having to dig the roots out of my gums. Not good, right? But I was worked on for less than five minutes and suddenly the surgeon was taking the brace out of my mouth and saying, “All done.”  You know it’s gone well when even the receptionist is startled at how fast it was taken care of.

That unfortunately meant lots of packed gauze and painkillers for the rest of today, and I’m still taking some 600mg of Motrin to ease the pain today, but it’s not that bad. (I actually just feel unusually tired and run down today more than anything else. We’ll see how the day progresses. Hopefully all will still be well.) I’m also not looking forward to the implant that will need to come for replacing the tooth, as I know that’s the more hefty of the procedures. But still, that’s a few months away.

Hopefully this is the last tooth extraction for a long while. I appreciate that they’ve been getting less and less painful, but still. I’d like to not have to gum my food down the line, right?

Allergic to Life

Miserable [365portraits: 131]Well, as promised earlier, I had my allergy testing yesterday. Honestly, up until Monday being off the medicine wasn’t too bad, but Monday itself? Utter nightmare. So much sneezing and blowing my nose that two days later my nose is still tender and sore from it all. All the Sudafed in the world, it seems, wasn’t enough to stop the bleah.

Now that the testing is over, though, I’m back on my Allegra and things are much better. Most of the results weren’t much of a surprise, either. Trees, grass, ragweed, dust mites, and cats. Yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep. The dust mites in particular caused a rather alarming reaction, so much that I wish I had my camera with me. It looked like I’d burnt my arm on the stove, it was so red and puffed up. Yikes.

In a few weeks I get to start allergy serum shots, which is exciting. Over time, in theory, I should become less allergic to some or all of these things. Not so crazy about how after getting the shot you have to wait for 30 minutes to make sure there isn’t some sort of horrible reaction, but on the bright side I guess that means I’ll get some reading done.

The only real surprise was a complete non-reaction to dogs, according to the test. To be fair, I’ve been wondering if my dog allergies have been fading the past few years, it’s not been as bad as when I was younger and my eyes would get red and itchy just being near dogs. Still, I can’t see myself rushing out and getting a dog. (Mind you, my current apartment doesn’t allow them so that also makes it a bit easier. Charlie has dog allergies, which also makes the non-dog-owning decision a snap.)

Best of all, though, is that (knock on wood) now that I can start breathing again, I can also get back on the exercise bandwagon. Somehow I suspect spinning class tonight is going to be brutal. Hopefully I can hit spinning, run over to Artomatic and quickly install my business card and guestbook holders, then get home in time for Lost. Since I have to be up pretty early tomorrow, it’ll be interesting juggling all of this plus dinner…

Best $25 I’ll Spend All Year

Charlie and I are up in the Hamptons over the New Year holiday with some friends, and today Michael decided he was heading over to the gym for an hour. Now, I’d brought my running gear with me, but all the snow on the ground (and a lack of sidewalks near the house) has meant that I hadn’t actually done any actual running. So, I offered to come along to the Sag Harbor Gym.

That’s when Michael warned me that to discourage tourists in the summer from overrunning the place, that it costs $25 for a day pass. Ouch. But still, I needed the exercise (Michael and Kyle have been cooking up a storm of delicious food and I have been eating like I’m preparing for hibernation) so I changed and away we went. I did wish I had some shorts to wear, since I’d only packed workout pants, but still not too bad.

Well, the last time I ran was Thanksgiving, so it’s been a while. (And I only ran twice in November if I remember correctly, between illnesses and such.) And honestly, I was expecting nothing. Hoping for six miles, but we’d see what happened. As it turned out, I managed five miles at a 10min/mile pace. Not my old pace, but I knew I wasn’t going to just jump back in like everything was a-ok. When I finished up the first 30 minute segment on the treadmill, I was beat, and I walked for a few minutes while deciding if I was going to switch to another piece of equipment or not. In the end I ran again, but knew 3 more miles just wasn’t on the agenda (and that was ok with me).

I’m really pleased, though. It’s the start of getting back up to speed again, and it feels good to start moving. (Even if it’s in place on a treadmill.) In terms of a mental “you’re starting to get back to normal” jolt? So worth every buck. And as much as I’ve been enjoying my vacation, it makes me eager to get home so I can continue that process (carefully, worry not). Yay!

Hopefully everyone else has had a great New Year so far. I’m pretty pleased with all three days of it.

Getting Back to Normal

First off, before I forget, huge thanks to everyone who sent well wishes (both on my own website as well as the LJ crosspost). I think it really does help the healing process to know that people actually want you to get better. (Even if it’s just so they can then tackle you with impunity.)

But yes, things are definitely on the mend here. I’m back to normal foods (although with this hideous cold that’s blanketing a lot of the country right now, a soup diet is not such a bad thing!), although still being careful with what I injest. Hey, a little extra care on what I eat isn’t really a bad thing now. Friday was definitely the turning point of going from “I still feel awful” to “I am starting to feel like I am actually getting better.” By the end of the weekend, I was thinking, “I can’t wait to go back to work.”

At this point more than anything else I’m waiting for the Steri-Strips™ to fall off of my four incision points (a process that takes “1 to 2 weeks”), and to hopefully get the all-clear next Monday to start exercising again. Honestly at this point I suspect that tackling the full National Marathon at the end of March is probably a no-go, but if I’m allowed to start running next week then we shall see how it goes. Until then I am being good and not lifting heavy objects, or going to cycling class, or using the rowing machine, or anything else of the sort. It is, of course, driving me a little insane.

Still, easy does it, so it’s just as well that I am having a pretty low-key Christmas. Charlie is visiting his family in Alabama, and my older sister’s visit was right before my surgery, so it will just me my parents and Suzanne (plus the adorable canine Bruno) during the day, and then relatives and family friends over for dinner in the evening. I did receive a tripod from Charlie as part of my Christmas present, so maybe this weekend I can finally try out some night photography that doesn’t involve the camera being perched on top of my car or a ledge. (Dear weather: please cooperate.)

Oh, and as a get-well gift to myself, I am now the proud owner of an Xbox 360. It came with two free games (Kung Fu Panda and Lego Indiana Jones) but so far what I am really playing on it are two games I purchased on the XBLA online store—Braid (a platform game which plays with the flow of time and is mind-bendingly wonderful), and Uno. No, really. Tod and Ed have been raving about Xbox Uno and yeah, it is awfully fun. So I certainly have things to keep me busy. (Oh, and my Xbox Live gamertag is “Greg McE” if you would care to add me. You can chortle at my pitiful number of Achievement points so far.)

It’s all good!

Cholecystectomy

I spent most of last week running around like a madman, trying to get tons of things done, because I knew that this week would be primary shot thanks to having my gallbladder removal surgery (aka cholecystectomy) scheduled for Monday, December 15th. It was to be performed laparoscopically, where they slide in the little wires and cameras and perform a limited number of incisions. I’m in favor of less incisions rather than more, of course.

No, thats not my SSN, sorry to disappoint.So, Monday morning, Charlie dropped me off at Virginia Hospital Center. The surgery was scheduled for noon, which meant needing to check in no later than 10am. I was there a little early, but came prepared with my copy of Wuthering Heights, which Brook had told me I really needed to read. Check-in was painless, and I had a very nice nurse quickly get me into my little waiting room. She snapped on my wristband, then left me to my own devices for getting changed. Hospital gown technology hasn’t really advanced since my other hospital surgery back in September 1980 (an appendicetomy), it seems. They’re still ill-fitting and awkward at best. At least I got to get under the blankets after putting it on, and knocked out a good six chapters of the book before the anesthesiologist showed up.

Now, I have to say, the procedure of knocking someone out has certainly improved since 1980. I still remember having the old gas mask being put over my nose and mouth as I was wheeled down the hallway at the tender age of seven. Here, he injected something into my IV, we had a discussion about Wuthering Heights (or at least what I’d read so far), how he had one bad teacher experience dissuade him from an English Lit degree, and then suddenly I was in the recovery room. Well, that was fast. I don’t even recall getting sleepy.

My parents picked me up once I was good enough to leave, and brought me home until Charlie got off of work and headed back over. Since then, I’ve felt incredibly sore from around the bottom of my ribcage to my waist, which is really not that surprising. Percocet has helped a great deal, though, and aside from one unfortunate vomiting incident soon after I got home (but with no solid food in me, it really wasn’t that bad — just water, and no bile at all since my gallbladder is no more) it hasn’t been too bad. Although I must say that I am really glad that my super-hydrated state (I’m guessing from the IV?) has finally ended. It hasn’t been since those early days of marathon training (back when the common practice was to “drink until you slosh”) that I have had the distinct non-joy of having to pee ever thirty minutes. At least by around 3am it had slowed down to every 90 minutes, and finally returned to normality this afternoon.

Today? Just a lot of lying down on the couch, really. There are things I’d like to have done—read some books, played some games—but I’m only just starting to really get my energy back. I did watch a bunch of TV on the DVR, though; mostly shows that didn’t require too much concentration. (I whole-heartedly recommend Trader Joe’s Organic Split Pea soup, incidentally. As canned soups go it’s near the top of the list, and also very healthy to boot.) I was amused that Charlie got sucked into the season finale of Survivor: Gabon when I was watching it last night, though. Hee hee hee.

Best thing of all, though? My mom found this yesterday morning:

My sister Suzanne drew it for me when I was in the hospital back in 1980; she was only four years old at the time. I have it on the fridge, now.

I was originally hoping to be back out exercising and such next week, but now I am thinking that it was a bit of wishful thinking at my end. Hopefully before New Year’s? That would be nice. We shall see. I have a follow-up appointment with my surgeon on the 29th, and I suspect everything will be pretty clear by then one way or another. Right now all I’m focusing on is getting to take a shower tomorrow. That will be quite nice.

The Wonderful World of Sick III: Full of Bile

Well, just when I think everything is back to normal… surprise! Remember the nausea/stomach problems I’d mentioned over the past week? Well, as it turns out, the problem was not the Amoxicillin. Last night I started having really horrible stomach pains a little after midnight, and by 4:30am they were so bad (with accompanying vomiting) that I had Charlie drive me to the Emergency Room at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington.

Turns out? It’s my gall bladder that has been causing the problems. This also explains the out-of-character-for-me bouts of indegestion I’ve been having over the past year. (I thought I was just getting older and unable to handle some foods properly.) The end result was I got my very first experience with morphine (oh, blessed relief—I was actually starting to shake uncontrollably from the pain and everything else going on), my very first prescription for Vicodin, and the plans to call my primary care doctor tomorrow morning to make an appointment to talk about treatment (which will almost certainly be having the gall bladder removed). I’m also having flashbacks to the end of January 2005, when I took Karon to Virginia Hospital Center’s ER for what she thought was food poisoning but turned out to be gallstones as well.

So, hopefully surgery sooner rather than later. I suspect this is going to be a very low-key Thanksgiving one way or another! And it’s also a real relief that I wasn’t up in Philadelphia for the marathon after all. Grammy always says that everything happens for a reason.