Measles...Or Not

Speaking of hypochondria…


You know how it seems like we are living like pioneers in 1857, thanks to the measles outbreak(s) brought on by kooky anti-vaxxers and their fear of survival? According to the CDC, there have already been 764 reported cases of measles this year. This is more than double last year’s total cases, and more than six times the cases in 2017. This year, there have been public health notices regarding measles outbreaks in Los Angeles County, Brooklyn, Washington, New York City, Texas, Illinois, and Rockland County (New York).


I am immunized because I got all my shots as a kid, and because I was in the military. When you in-process, you line up with all your fellow new airmen and wait for a slightly senior-to-you airman to push up your sleeve up and give you approximately 97 shots at once, regardless of your vaccination history. Your arm hurts for, what seems like, weeks, probably because you are concurrently doing endless push-ups and pull-ups on those same arms. I’m pretty sure it’s just the tetanus shot that hurts, but it seems like they all hurt.

 

These new measles cases mean that adults are panicking about their decades-old shots and whether or not they need to be covered with new boosters. If you were born after 1989, you probably had two doses of the measles vaccine, which is approximately 97% effective at preventing measles, versus the single dose MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine used as far back as the 50s, which was still very effective (93%), but slightly less so. The only way for adults to tell, at this point, whether or not they fall into that “almost” covered, or not covered at all between 93%, 97% or 0%, is to get their titers checked. This is as simple as getting their blood drawn to find out if they have any antibodies that say, “yep, I’m protected from the measles.”

 

All of this measles talk has a purpose, I promise.

 

I was born before 1989, and I was in the military. So, logically, I’m covered for the measles, right? Duh. I have had my measles vaccines. In fact, I have been vaccinated twice over, by anyone’s standards. According to the anti-vaxx crowd, I should either be dead, have super-autism, or be glowing with toxic radiation. That’s how it works, right? Either way, I have no reason to assume I have the measles.  

 

Still, when I got a weird rash on my face last week, that’s precisely what I did. To be fair, I didn’t assume measles…at first. I waited several days before I freaked out. And, I kept the freak out factor very minimum. In fact, I tried to go to my primary care doctor, super casual-like. “Hey man, I’ve got this rash, can I come in? Super chill. No big deal. In fact, let’s forget the rash, let’s just get some burgers and milkshakes. I’m cool, I’m casual. I’m breezy.”


I only showed up at Urgent Care because he’s at a conference at Johns Hopkins, for the next THREE FREAKING WEEKS, and I had no choice. He’s still out of the office, actually.

 

I was, frankly, pretty annoyed at him. Not sure if you’ve heard of this new MDVIP thing; but, it’s basically concierge medical care. A lot of doctors cut their patient load down to a few hundred (or fewer) patients, which is great for you, as a patient; however, you pay a yearly fee to enroll in the practice. It works out for the doctor, too, as they work with less insurance red-tape, make a higher profit (the high enrollment fee is cash only), plus they get to practice medicine the way they want to. It makes for pretty personalized care, and a wonderful patient experience. It’s not cheap go to a MDVIP provider, and he was gone for THREE WEEKS, during a “measles” crisis on my face.

 

I digress. I suppose I can forgive him. He’s been there for me at minutes’ notice when I’ve had the flu, a UTI, and a kidney stone, in the past, so fake measles can be forgiven…this time! He’s a great doctor, and always thorough. He’s often too thorough. You can never get out of there in less than thirty to forty minutes, even for a “quick” appointment, and not for waiting, for the appointment.

 

Anyway, back to this rash on my face. It was weird, red splotchy spots that had popped up out of nowhere all over my face, primarily on my right cheek. I’d not had contact with anything new, not eaten anything new, not worn anything new, not used a new soap, nothing. They kind of itched, but not really. They felt raw when I touched them. They were spreading, and they were ugly. The ugliness was my primary concern, of course.

It’s almost embarrassing to show you all this picture because it barely shows the rash, here. But, this is the" “best” picture I have of it. Half of my face is covered by sunglasses, and half of my spots aren’t visible. Overall, it’s a pretty dumb shot to “show off” a rash. But, here it is. And, it’s a HIDEOUS picture of me. It’s probably not the ugliest picture I’ve ever posted here, but it’s still not great! But, you get the idea of what some of the spots looked like.

It’s almost embarrassing to show you all this picture because it barely shows the rash, here. But, this is the" “best” picture I have of it. Half of my face is covered by sunglasses, and half of my spots aren’t visible. Overall, it’s a pretty dumb shot to “show off” a rash. But, here it is. And, it’s a HIDEOUS picture of me. It’s probably not the ugliest picture I’ve ever posted here, but it’s still not great! But, you get the idea of what some of the spots looked like.

 

 At first, I thought they were pimples and that I was having a hideously bad acne breakout. Because I am blessed with normally clear skin, with the exception of pimples that come in singles here or there, I was pretty annoyed to have a baker’s dozen arrive on my face all at once. Still, I slept with those awesome pimple patches on all of the spots, thinking I’d wake up with lots of goopy stickers to peel off in the morning. Nope. All the stickers came off clean, and the spots were just as red and hideous. So, I was annoyed that I’d wasted a ton of those stickers. Plus, there were even more red spots. Hmmm….and grrrrr.

 

In the back of my mind, I thought they looked measle-y, but I knew it couldn’t be, because I’d had my vaccines; however, measles starts on the face as flat, red spots. Check. Logic be damned when you’re a hypochondriac. I posted my rash, now several days old, on FB and one of my friends immediately said measles. Really, I just wanted someone to say, “poison ivy,” or, “leprosy.” Really, anything other than confirming what I was already thinking.

 

This was moments before I went in to a physical therapy appointment for my ridiculous shoulder that is still bothering me. My physical therapist, of course noticed my rashy face. There’s nothing like brining a potentially contagious rash into a medical building where they treat dozens of patients, many of them elderly, a day. You feel like a criminal. Only instead of assaulting the elderly directly, I was potentially leaving behind a microbe to do my dirty work. When she asked what it was, I was forced to tell her I didn’t know. But, of course, she said it looked a little like measles. I explained it couldn’t be, that I was vaccinated, which made her more comfortable, and that I was going to get it checked anyway, which put her even more at ease.

 

So, I went to urgent care….

 

This is how check in went:

 

I’m perfectly healthy, energetic and happy, as I approach the counter. I tell the check-in woman that I’m probably fine, but if I’m not, perhaps I should sit somewhere away from others because I’m concerned the rash on my face is measles. The woman behind the desk looks up at me, looks at my face, smiles at me, and tells me to take a seat. She removes the pen that I used to sign in with from the cup on the counter, throws it away, and then sanitizes her hands, wipes the counter with bleach and wipes her keyboard. Yep. I feel great, so far. The waiting room is empty, except for a single person, so I sit all the way on the other side of the room.

 

Moments later, a nurse comes out to get me, wearing a face mask and gloves. She was excessively kind and apologetic for being so overly cautious, and said that she hoped I understood the precautions. Of course, I did! She got me to a room, checked me in and took a look at my face. From her assessment, she said it was hard to tell, but it looked like…hmmm…maybe? In other words, she didn’t know. So, she obviously wanted to wait for the doctor. What she did want me to know was that she was so happy that I came to the clinic and that she wished more people came to check on rashes they didn’t know about because it would help stop spread these outbreaks. This left me wondering what other rashes cause outbreaks, other than measles? Meanwhile, I was apologizing profusely for wasting everyone’s time and for being so ridiculous for coming in, in the first place. All I could think of, was becoming patient zero in Northing Virginia.

 

Next, a PA comes in, introduces herself, gloves up, and puts a mask on. She also apologizes for the precaution and congratulates me on potentially stopping a measles outbreak in its tracks. I am starting to feel like a god damn hero for visiting Urgent Care, instead of like a weirdo with a face rash. She spends about five minutes examining my face, which, trust me, is a long time to have someone centimeters from you face, poking it, shining a light on it, and staring directly at each spot. The end result of her exam was that she just…wasn’t…sure. She thinks that it’s probably not, but she doesn’t want to make the final ruling without a doctor to sign off on it. Just in case.

 

By the way, there’s nothing like a woman with a light squinting right at your face, quizzically saying, “Gosh, I just don’t know…what IS that?” while poking your cheek, as if she’s poking at a piece of rotten meat. It makes you feel just, I don’t know, pretty? Is pretty the right word? Gorgeous?

 

So, that’s two people who are maybe thinking it’s not measles, but they can’t 100% be sure that it’s not, so they need a third party to rule it out for certain. So, now I’m wondering, if it’s not measles, what the hell kind of rash do I have? What did I get into that’s so insanely unique that no one can even identify it?

 

The doctor comes in, this time not covered, not masked, and not gloved. He was also very nice, and congratulated me on being responsible enough to take seriously how contagious I might be to others. I was wondering if, at some point, the entire clinic might be secretly planning a party, or perhaps a parade for me? It really made me feel much better about going in for something so silly, to have everyone be so nice to me. Anyway, he examined me pretty closely as well, and determined it was “just a rash.”

 

His assessment was that it’s basically a “who the hell knows?” kind of thing. He didn’t say that, but that’s my description. I could’ve come in contact with anything, at any time, and been allergic to it. Even with steroids and steroid cream, it still took another week for it to clear up, so whatever it was, I was obviously having quite a reaction to it! He said it definitely looked very similar measles, so there was certainly a reason to feel a little concerned. However, measles tends to start more towards the hairline, and not the cheeks. The more you know, I suppose!

 

He said it might’ve been poison oak or poison ivy. It made me remember that I had, indeed, been rubbing my face in the lawn when I was gardening a few days prior. I was weeding our raised veggie and flower beds, and to take a break, I put my face all over the grass. No wait, dogs do that. So, no, I have no idea what caused the rash. It was just there. And now, it’s gone. And, it wasn’t measles. Of course.

 

So, my hypochondria sent me to urgent care for a disease that deep down I knew I didn’t have, which I was later told I didn’t have. And, all ended well. OH! I forgot the part which Bryon even agreed that it was a good idea to get checked. He was a hypochondria supporter, at least in this case. He, like me, said, “you probably don’t have it, but yeah, get checked. Not a bad idea.” Meanwhile, he was at home, texting me what he was Googling, which was that I didn’t have a fever, and all the CDC reported cases by state. He didn’t feel 100% sure that I was “safe” until he saw that there were no reported cases in Virginia yet, this year. I always know when Bryon is worried, even 1% worried, by his texts, or what he Googles or looks up. He was just a smidge concerned, just like me. A smidge counts. Hope my hypochondria isn’t rubbing off on him!

Popping Pills

This is my pill case.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Just kidding. But really, this are the pills that I have to take, every day to survive. If I don’t take these pills, I will likely have a seizure, or feel very, very badly, and wish I were dead. As you can see, there are little boxes for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime. Phew, because I can’t remember if I took my pills, sometimes (all the time) from one part of the day, till the next. This helps take the question out of it. Or, you know, the death, from taking them two or three extra times.

Bryon fills it up for me, every Sunday night, so, he could kill me if he wanted to, because I don’t even remember what the full dosages are, anymore, for most of them. Well, that’s not true, I do, but I’d get confused trying to fill it up. It’s too much math for me these days! Once all those little doors are all opened up, I’d feel like a third string mathlete who got called to “the show” because everyone else’s pocket-protectors were destroyed in a freak calculator fire.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a minute to explain what it’s like to be on so many drugs, foreveh. All the pills in this case are non-narcotic, and are non-addictive. There is nothing in here that causes anything that, say, means I cannot drive, or am impaired in any way. But, it still means that I have to take a bunch of stuff. They all help, a lot, but they don’t make me better. I’m an open book about my condition, and what I use, and do, to treat it, so why not give you a glimpse into my meds, right?

Topamax

A controversial drug in the Chiari world. Lots of neurologists start headache patients with Topamax, or its newer patented drug, Trokendi, which is just an XR formulation. The generic is called Topiramate (or Topiramate XR, in the case of Trokendi). It’s an anti-seizure medication that has shown to be very effective at reducing migraines, as migraines originate, in many cases, in the same part of the brain, as seizure activity. Lots of people in the Chiari community think that it’s akin to poison because it has a lot of negative side effects, especially during the adjustment period, such as confusion and making your food taste bad. The confusion goes away, but making soda taste bad, not so much. I think we could all live with less soda though.

I know a woman who claims that she failed a fourth grade math test; drove her car off a bridge; and that her red blood cell count was so elevated, her doctor thought she might have cancer, but didn’t. Since a grown woman doesn’t have call to take a fourth grade math test, and (I think??) it’s a white blood cell count that indicates cause for alarm for cancer (which she didn’t have, anyway), and the bridge thing is the questionable icing on a cake made of lies, I feel like she might be exaggerating her response to the med, but who am I to say? Either way, lots of Chiari people call it Topashit, Dopashit, or Dopamax. Really, I just think it boils down to the fact that they don’t want to believe that any of their headaches could be related to anything else, and don’t want to trust a neurologist to treat them, if it’s not to refer them to a surgeon. Chiari patients are inherently mistrustful, and with good reason.

Regardless, I’ve taken Topamax, since I was a teenager, in varying amounts, from 50 mg a day, up to 800 mg a day (an insane amount, prescribed by a terrible doctor), I’m on 300 mg a day now, and that seems to be a good, stable amount. I have my liver and kidney levels checked regularly, and I’ve had no damage, which is another side effect (stones especially). I’ve not failed any math tests, driven off any bridges, or had any fake-cancer scares, yet. But, Collin’s in fourth grade now, so if I have to take one of his tests, I’ll let you know…but wait, he’s in fifth grade math. Shit, I won’t ever know!

Gabapentin (Neurotinin)

Gabapentin is for nerve damage. I didn’t realize how badly my scalp nerves were damaged, until I was prescribed Gabapentin. I just thought that it was normal to not be able to brush my hair anymore, or to feel like I was constantly being stung by thousands of invisible, tiny bees, at all times. That’s, apparently, not normal. Who knew? Gabapentin took several weeks to get used to as well, because it works on the brain, and it took several weeks to work up to an appropriate, stable dose, but I love it.

It makes you ungodly tired, at first. Like, I could barely move my face off of the pillow, for the first few weeks, but I’m perfectly normal now, and I don’t know how I survived without it. Most people claim that it makes you gain weight, usually around 30-60 lbs., but I’ve not had that issue at all. I’ve found that being able to move my head without my hair follicles sending stabbing icepick pain through the rest of my scalp makes it easier to exercise, not more difficult. I was hesitant when I read a lot of people claiming this wait gain, so I read through the literature, and saw that the weight gain incidence was something like 2 out of 336 patients (vs 0 given placebo). So, when I see dozens and dozens, no hundreds of people on groups, posting that they’ve gained 50 lbs., or more, thanks to Gabapentin I think there might be something else going on. All I know, is no more tinglies!

Cymbalta

Did you know that depression is pretty common in the chronically ill and those with severe, chronic pain? If you read this blog, I bet you did. I take Cymbalta for my ongoing depression. I tried several drugs before I got it right with Cymbalta. It’s made from fluffy kitties, clouds and unicorns. It’s amazing. It gives me the energy that I lack when I’m in a low, and it keeps me level when I don’t want to be. It doesn’t cure depression, but it makes it more bearable, and makes it easier to help me to help myself. But, it gives me dry mouth. Why do all anti-depressants give you dry mouth? Seriously? It’s the worst. And not just dry, but like you’ve been licking your living room rug all day, and then sucking on a back of pennies for refreshment.

I have zero shame for taking Cymbalta, and if anyone ever wants to talk to me about other drugs I’ve tried and why I didn’t like them, I am happy to discuss. I know someone who claimed to have had a stroke after one pill of Cymbalta. Thankfully, she survived; and, considering her harrowing battle to survive driving off a bridge, failing a fourth grade math test, and a blood test that was nothing, she’s lucky to be alive. In other words, I think she did not have a stroke. I’m pretty sure she’s just anti-all-meds, which is always abundantly clear, as she recommends wrapping your feet in hootchie-mama oil and breathing in the relaxing scent of hippie-sweat, available from your local oil dealer. Or her, of course.

Stool Softeners

Is there much more to say about stool softeners? I take opiates. Poop is hard when you take opiates. Stool softeners make poop softer. Must you know everything?

Synthroid

I have a hypoactive thyroid. So, I take 50 mcg of Synthroid a day. Once, when the prescription ran out, I was too lazy to get it refilled on time, so I thought to myself, “I wonder what would happen, if I just stopped taking it. It’s such a small pill, what can it really do?” Know what happens? You develop a giant goiter! That’s what! They thought I had thyroid cancer, which was a terrifying 36-hours. Thankfully, when I got back on my meds, it shrunk back down to normal, within a few weeks. So, note to others: don’t stop taking your thyroid meds. I only ever really called to refill it, not because of the goiter, which I barely noticed, but because my hair kept falling out in handfuls, and I was really, really tired. The doctor though, spotted the goiter from across the room. Apparently, my family and I are not that observant of large lumps on my neck.

Clonidine

Clonidine is, technically, a heart medication; but, it lowers your blood pressure quite nicely, and knocks you the fuck out. It’s a great drug for combatting withdrawal. You can take quite a bit of it, especially when you are in the throes of it. Since I have to do withdrawal, yet again (ugh, I know), it’s my ever-faithful friend. I take it at night, usually, to make it through the night, because it’s the longest time I go, usually, between doses of Oxy. Me and Clonidine are well acquainted. He lets me call him Clonnie. And he calls me, His Bitch.

Benadryl

I am allergic to everything. For real. I eat a cupcake from the bakery at Von’s and I’m fine. I eat two, and I get a rash. Enter: Benadryl. I get rashes from just about everything these days: candy, cookies, cake, essentially everything delicious. Aside from the allergies, Benadryl can be your best friend when you need extra sleep from withdrawal, and it helps with some of the symptoms, like the post-nasal drip, sneezing, and the red, watery, running eyes.

Drugs That Aren’t in the Daily Box

Oxy

Obviously. I can’t get rid of that damn med. It’s like a bad re-run, always on. But, it’s back in the rotation from the hideous, month-long headache from the rhizotomy. Back in the withdrawal saddle again. But, Dr. W, my pain management doctor, who rocks the house, has a new idea for me, that is super-scary, but sounds amazing too. He wants to do a spinal cord stimulator. More on that later, but eek!

Muscle Relaxers

I am down to taking these, mostly, just at night. I take Robaxin, which is pretty strong, but they work really well. They make you sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. I have a strong dose, obviously, so I’m always careful when I take them, such as not before driving, even though I’ve been on them forever, and could probably handle it. There’s no room for probably with safety, right!

Various Migraine Abortives

I have several Triptan medications, which are the go-to for migraines. I also keep Zofran at home, which is a prescription anti-nausea medication. I am lucky enough to have dissolvable tablets, that you don’t have to swallow with water, so you don’t barf them back up, during a migraine, or Chiari episode. I also have Firocet for pressure headaches. I also take Advil when it’s really, really bad, because the anti-inflammatory helps a lot, but it irritates my precious, and apparently, delicate tummy.

Being sick in a forever way, means you are tied to some forever meds. It’s not a glorious existence, and it means people are forever looking at your pill case like “I’d never do that,” or “I bet if you just rubbed some coconut oil on it, you’d feel better,” you know, because obviously, coconut oil cures and fixes everything. But, until you get really, really sick, you don’t know shit. All you know is that you don’t really know what you’d do. You don’t know what it feels like to live in fear of the headache that will, finally kill you, in a stroke or an aneurism. You don’t know what it means to just hope for maintenance, not better, worse, or death. You don’t know what it means to just want to survive, at status quo. You don’t know what it means to just want to survive, and hope, that one day, that means thrive.

So, for every one person who says, “I’d never…” there should be at least five more that say, “that’s amazing….” But, there aren’t. There should be, but there aren’t. I know this because I keep my pill case in the living room, because that’s where I spend the most time. I’d forget to take my mid-afternoon pills, if I left it in the bedroom. So, it stays in the living room, where I write, read, and draw, and where I watch TV at night, with my husband. It’s tucked away in a corner, where no one really sees it. But, if it’s time for a med, a guest might take note of it. I see the judgement in their eyes, and sense the “ugh” in their faces when they see how many pills I have to take, the “I’d never do that,” in their exchanged glances. You probably would, my friends, you probably would. Don’t think for a moment that each pill hasn’t taken a small piece of my soul, of my dignity, of hope, because it has. But, I have had to learn to reclaim it, and be proud of living through it, and surviving.

 

Daphne The Great

4:30 a.m. (look, getting it right more often): Are you up? I’m up. Everybody say haaaay-ooo for withdrawal insomnia.

The things your mind comes up with when you are tired, right?

The cats are up. Mostly, because I’m up, and they do what I do. I’m sort of their ringleader. Okay, I lie. I’m their bitch; but, they follow me around a lot because I have the treats and the soft touch with the wet food.

We’re missing an animal here this early morning. So, I'm going to talk about my dog, for a rambling bit. M'kay?

She's glorious when she's basking, isn't she? She thinks she is, and she owns it. Work it, girl. Work it.

She's glorious when she's basking, isn't she? She thinks she is, and she owns it. Work it, girl. Work it.

She’s in the doggie hospital, and we don’t know when she’s coming home. We’re pretty worried about the stupid oaf. We love her. I mentioned before that she had been clamoring to go outside more and more often, and I feel so guilty about being annoyed with her about it now because she didn’t feel well. At least now we don't have to think about giving her up, not for one second. She's happy here, she just didn't feel well. In the back of my mind, I’d wondered if that was why she was doing it. But, it’d coincided with Bryon traveling more, and that’s something she does when he travels, so I chalked it up to that.

A pretty old picture from Virginia, but she certainly loves giving love, even if the receiver finds it a bit, well, too much. I love how tiny Collin's head is in her arms. She's so gentle. She knows exactly how much pressure to put on someone smaller than herself. You should see her "play," or rather, attempt to "play" with the kitten.

A pretty old picture from Virginia, but she certainly loves giving love, even if the receiver finds it a bit, well, too much. I love how tiny Collin's head is in her arms. She's so gentle. She knows exactly how much pressure to put on someone smaller than herself. You should see her "play," or rather, attempt to "play" with the kitten.

About a week ago, when she wasn’t just skipping meals when he was gone, but also when he was home, I started floating the idea that maybe we should take her to the vet. I got more insistent when she stopped sleeping in her bed, and when she had an accident in the house for the first time, ever in her life. Okay, she had another one when she was a puppy, but that one doesn’t count, and we’ve not spoken of the river of diarrhea (that’s the world’s hardest word to spell) since, as it was a family pact that night, never to speak of it again. The lake of shit, we called it.

Personal boundaries. Nope. Not for a Great Dane. P.S. Also, no sense of personal size. She's pretty sure she fits here. She doesn't.

Personal boundaries. Nope. Not for a Great Dane. P.S. Also, no sense of personal size. She's pretty sure she fits here. She doesn't.

Still, it seemed like, maybe it was a bunch of random, unrelated behaviors, not just one thing that screamed, “I’m a sick lil’ doggie!” And, otherwise she seemed okay. She slept on the couch. She wagged her tail. She got excited when we came home. She was so frustratingly normal in most regards, that it was hard to pull the trigger on the whole, “let’s take her in,” decision.

I know this video has NOTHING to do with what I'm talking about...but it's crazy cool. Collin had been messing with the phone, when it was new, and learned about the SloMo feature. Look how huge she looks! Well, that's how huge she is, but it looks cool.

Anyway, boy am I glad we took her in. The vet said, “this is one sick dog.” Why is it that no matter how you phrase that, it sounds like you are being sarcastic; using weird, but lame street lingo; or, trying to be covertly, and cheesily sexual about something else? One of her liver enzyme levels was so high that it couldn’t be accurately measured by his equipment. For real. Good God, Daphne. And, others were all in the ghastly range. In other words, she’s jaundiced. He’s got her on antibiotics; but, it’s anyone’s guess why and how this happened.

People often marvel at her size, and don't really get a good perspective at how big she is. This is from when we first moved into this house. This is Daphne next to the box for our flat screen television. She's as big as the T.V. So, yeah, she's not tiny. And, she's the runt of her litter, which made her the petite gal of her gang. She's 120 lbs, right now, which has her out-weighing me.

People often marvel at her size, and don't really get a good perspective at how big she is. This is from when we first moved into this house. This is Daphne next to the box for our flat screen television. She's as big as the T.V. So, yeah, she's not tiny. And, she's the runt of her litter, which made her the petite gal of her gang. She's 120 lbs, right now, which has her out-weighing me.

He said that it could be a slowly developing allergy to her insanely expensive, high-quality diet. Thanks for that, Daphne. It would be nice of you to develop an allergy to the food that we special-order for you, and have delivered to the house. No biggie, we’ll just start you on a prescription diet. I’m serious, of course. We would, but come on. Dog, stop it. Right now. She’s well trained. She might listen, even though I sound harsh right now. Right? Hope lies in strange places. This is the most likely culprit, but seems unusual, even to the vet.

Her best shots are pictures like these taking care of me. Her best skills are sleeping, napping, laying down and resting. So, when others are doing the same, she's ready to jump right on board and help out.

Her best shots are pictures like these taking care of me. Her best skills are sleeping, napping, laying down and resting. So, when others are doing the same, she's ready to jump right on board and help out.

Or, it could be a parasite, which she could’ve picked up at the emergency vet, or even their office, when she had her cyst removed in September; but that’s unlikely. Parasites come, usually, through fecal contact. Our vet is pretty sanitary, so she’d have had to have licked up something pretty icky, after something else pretty icky, that wasn’t cleaned up properly. Yummy, parasitic poop trail. Stranger things have happened. But, doctor’s offices are clean. However, animals poop everywhere, and you can’t catch everything.

One of my favorite shots of my babies, which I'm sure I've shared before. I'd been sick with a Chiari headache for over a week, missing my husband's promotion, and his party. My animals were snuggled with me, taking good care of me though. I don't know what I'd do without them.

One of my favorite shots of my babies, which I'm sure I've shared before. I'd been sick with a Chiari headache for over a week, missing my husband's promotion, and his party. My animals were snuggled with me, taking good care of me though. I don't know what I'd do without them.

And finally, it could be because her gallbladder isn’t working properly, causing the bile sludge to back up the whole system. If that’s the problem, we are in a hurry up scenario, especially with her, because her gallbladder would be pretty large, and if it bursts, she’ll die. He said that if her gallbladder walls are weak, and filled with sludge or stones, it could burst at any time, so we have to find out, and now. So, he is in contact with the traveling ultrasound vet, arranging to have her ultrasounded (Word believes that not to be a word, oh well) today, to see if it needs to be removed.

Thankfully, we also have Daphne's excellent skill set of protecting us from invisible intruders that only she can see. She warns us of these intruders by barking incessantly at them, and scaring them away. She's also very good at insisting on pristine spots on the couch, on which to take her 18-hour naps, pushing all of our pillows into piles, as shown. Weird and perfect dog that she is.

Thankfully, we also have Daphne's excellent skill set of protecting us from invisible intruders that only she can see. She warns us of these intruders by barking incessantly at them, and scaring them away. She's also very good at insisting on pristine spots on the couch, on which to take her 18-hour naps, pushing all of our pillows into piles, as shown. Weird and perfect dog that she is.

I have to pause here to reveal a secret about writing these things: I usually write for ten minutes, then screw around for 10-20 minutes, then write ten more. Or, some other “work/life” balance that sounds more important, like write, then meal-prep. Today, I’ve written ten minutes, then messed around for, like 45 minutes. I think, I don’t want to think about my dog being sick. Obviously. She went for a ride in the car with us, which she loves, because it’s endless possibilities for her, and then got left at the scary vet, when she feels terrible. I feel rotten.

Happy dog, on a happy car ride just for the heck of it, to pick up Collin from school. Yep, let her ride in the Audi. That big old beast fits just fine in the back seat, because she curls in a ball, and snuggles in.

Happy dog, on a happy car ride just for the heck of it, to pick up Collin from school. Yep, let her ride in the Audi. That big old beast fits just fine in the back seat, because she curls in a ball, and snuggles in.

I love animals. I try so hard to take good care of mine, to listen to the way they talk to me. I watch their body language, to make sure that I’m not bothering them, but doing things the way they want me to, when playing with, or petting them. I work hard to get them good food, toys and treats. I want their lives to be comfortable and happy, and I failed my girl here. Now, she’s sick, scared and alone. I just want her better, and home with us, so I can spend the rest of her life making up for it.

My current favorite picture of the other terror in the house, Loki. He was helping me read, not very effectively, I might add.

My current favorite picture of the other terror in the house, Loki. He was helping me read, not very effectively, I might add.

With a dog, I can flop all over her and spoil her with petting, love and attention, thankfully. Had this been Homer, the only way I could make it up to him would be to leave him alone, and let him retreat to the comfort of his study, away from all people. Dogs have a way of letting you love on them, the way you want to, tolerating all of your nonsense, and eating it up like melting ice cream. Cats, not so much. As a relatively cold, not all that affectionate, person myself, I think I relate more to the cats, but appreciate the need for a dog in the great balance of the universe, as I have been over-petting the cats, at this moment of dog-despair.

The whole animal clan, being animals. Animal life would be sad without any of them. Loki, you are ruining the shot with your ridiculous sleeping pose, by the way.

The whole animal clan, being animals. Animal life would be sad without any of them. Loki, you are ruining the shot with your ridiculous sleeping pose, by the way.

Okay...we were missing one animal from the cozy napping above; although Daphne understands that Frodo is a friend, not food, the cats, not so much. They will play with Frodo, if he's in his ball, which Frodo seems to delight in, fleeing and then charging them with impunity. But, outside of his ball, that's another story. Homer seems too old to bother caring, bot Loki has made it his life's mission to find, destroy and then eat that hamster.

Frodo says that the meta irony of making his stocking a rodent is a little strange, but he's down with it, so long as it gets him a present from Santa Paws, which it did.

Frodo says that the meta irony of making his stocking a rodent is a little strange, but he's down with it, so long as it gets him a present from Santa Paws, which it did.

Are YOU Chronically Ill?

I’m not gonna lie, this post is inspired by some nasty words that I exchanged with someone recently. Someone I know experienced an injury that has severely hindered her quality of life. This is still, of course, temporary, as it’s an injury, like all injuries.

The worst of injuries come with surgery, physical therapy, years of pain, arthritis, and debilitating pain. They come with giving up activities that you love, and they come with alterations to your life. I do not deny this. But, this is not all injuries; and most injuries reach a point of improvement, rather than a steady decline.

The debate arose about whether or not an injury was thus similar to invisible illness, or even chronic illness. There is no argument that chronic pain sucks. But, I argue that it’s in the same category of invisible illness, nor to chronic illness. And furthermore, I argue that chronic pain from an injury, while not diminishing it all, is almost a gift. It goes away; and it leaves behind an important memory that allows the patient to appreciate both their previous and post-pain body. It also allows people to appreciate the experience of sick people in a way that others may not.

It smacked me hard to hear someone with an injury categorize themselves as an invisible illness or chronic illness patient. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m still buried in my own grief; perhaps it’s still my own jagged little pill; and I am protective of it. But really, I’m not sure why anyone would want it, frankly.

Regardless, for someone to grab onto it, for the sake of sympathy, attention, or anything akin to that, seemed so silly. This, in turn, got me thinking about how you can tell if you really do have an invisible illness, or if you are full of attention-seeking bullshit.

So, if you aren’t sure, answer these three questions:  

 

Do You Willingly Accept, Seek Out, or Try Any Insane Advice?

Does the next “big” cure like essential oils, vitamins, shakes, or any other random palliative sound like a panacea? Or, ask yourself, honestly, does it sound, like something you can use as a subject starter? In other words, you can legitimately bring your “ailment” up, with a friend, in a mutually beneficial conversation. Hey, you get to talk, and she (let’s be honest, it’s hardly ever men that sell MLM crap) gets to sell you shit. Guess what? You aren’t fucking sick. You are using your illness to talk bullshit, around more bullshit. Know how I know this? Because thieves oil (whatever the fuck that is) won’t change the shape of my skull, anymore than it will clean up cartilage in a bad knee. So, if you are hitting up your local Young Living (or DoTerra, or Isagenix, or fill-in-the-blank) rep, you are pandering for attention.

 

Are You Willing to Quietly Listen to ANYONE Else with “Similar” Woes?

When your Great Aunt Betty tells you that her neighbor’s sister’s mailman also used to once have a headache, are you all ears? Do you want to hear all about your baby-sitter’s menstrual headaches, anxiously awaiting your “turn,” to talk, just so someone will validate you? Guess what? You aren’t sick. Here’s the secret: the real people in your life are getting sick of hearing your bullshit stories over and over again, and the reason you are stuck in the position of listening to these windbags, waiting for your turn to talk, is because you have exhausted your loved ones with crappy, exhausting complaints.

 

Do You Sound Like a Hallmark Card?

Do you refer to your illness or ailment as a journey? Or, do you call failed doctor’s appointments, where they tell you nothing’s wrong, as “just another step in the road?” Are you writing your own “book of life?” Sweetie, this isn’t Eat, Pray, Love. If you are sick, truly sick, you’ll know it. It’s not a fucking journey. You’ll realize that once you know you are sick, it’s the end of the God Damn road. Know what that means, for real? It means that you grieve. You, no shit, grieve. A part of you dies. Remember what you know about the grieving process, with the real stages (sadness, denial, the whole she-bang?), real sick people are doing that. They aren’t on some hokey journey. They wake up angry on Monday, and hopefully accepting Tuesday. They aren’t, as a friend of mine said, fucking handsome men in Italy and eating their way through Europe, hoping to come to an epiphany about life. The "epiphany," is that their former life is over, and they have to find a new way to accept the shitty new one they've been handed. How's that for a fucking journey?

 

So, if you find yourself in one of these three questions, you are probably “fake” sick. It’s okay. Really. Being sick, from the outside, looks like a lot of fun. People pay a lot of attention to you. Well, it looks like they pay a lot of attention to you. So, that looks like a pretty sweet deal. For someone with a deeply empty life, that might seem like the best thing ever. But, let me suggest exploring why you think you want this, instead

Because, let me be the first to tell you, I wish that I could slap some DoTerra on my forehead, tell my mailman that I just have a headache, and that my journey is beautiful. Really. If being truly ill were that simple, and my life were my own again, perhaps I’d think it’d be a good gig. But being sick is about losing everything you ever knew. It’s about forgetting everything you ever dreamt. Forgetting your dreams. Forgetting hope. Finding a new soul. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a person, short of dying.