26 August 2014

Zoolander Syndrome... of the arm

My mysteriously swollen neck mysteriously deflated in late December and early January. The doctors never figured out what exactly was wrong, though they did notice a lovely case of lymphodema in my left arm. Well, duh, thanks for the newsflash.

Any activity more vigorous than typing is likely to make my arm swell. The more prolonged the activity, the more swelling. Just for fun, flying also causes swelling. The solution is a compression sleeve. Not one of the flashy ones that basketball player wear, but an actual medical version. Translation: it costs $90 instead of $20.

Nearly 10 days ago, Matt and I wasted a week of perfectly good vacation days to move all of our belongings out of the rental house and into our garage. Because we just had to move everything across the street, we naively decided to do it ourselves. However, due to scaffolding and other construction detritus, across the street became down the street, around a 180 degree curve, and down a steep hill.

My left arm and hand started to swell on Thursday, and on went the sleeve. The sleeve stayed on all night and all day Friday, as the swelling increased and increased. By early Friday evening, I could barely bend my fingers or elbows.
Puff, the magic hand, dangled from my arm. And wallowed in the extra lymph that wouldn't move along.

Poking any spot was incredibly painful, while at the same time, my entire arm was cold and tingly. Not just cold to me, but cold to the touch. Oh, and my fingers were starting to turn purple. Time to call the on call doctor!

I described my symptoms over the phone, and the doctor sent me to the emergency room. No big surprise there.

I told the doctor that I was suffering from a lovely case of lymphodema. The doctor decided to be all responsible and not immediately believe me. A vascular technician was called in to scan my veins and arteries for possible blood clots, which would explain the cold tingliness.

The ultrasound showed no problems with blood flow, though that wasn't good enough. The next step was a CT scan of my lungs, as a blood clot there could cause my symptoms. In order to inject the IV contrast, my right arm, which was feeling a bit neglected, received an IV.

Anyone who has spent as much time as me getting imaging done knows the drill. Lie perfectly still for the first round of zapping, get dosed with contrast, and remain in the exact same position for the second round of zapping. The whole not moving thing is incredibly important to get good results. That's why, when the IV detached during the contrast diffusion, I didn't move. My heart, on the other hand, kept pumping blood. SQUIRT! SQUIRT!

It turned out that the little screw that attaches the line to the plastic tube inside the vein wasn't screwed in all the way. When the pressurizing by the contrast injecting machine, it came completely apart. Thankfully, the contrast was clear. Regrettably, my arms were above my head so all the blood and contrast were soaked up by my hair.

Once the mess was cleaned up, the whole imaging process had to start over. All in all, a ten minute study took the better part of an hour. Matt was worried about what might have happened to me, then confused as to why my hospital gown magically changed from green to blue.

After all of that, around four in the morning, the doctor declared me to have lymphodema and sent me home with instructions to see my doctor. Apparently my worries about a giant needle being used to drain my arm were unfounded; lymph swells every cell individually, and a giant needle would be very imprecise to drain them individually.

20 August 2014

The Joker

Matt and I innocently went on a trip to Puerto Rico, leaving the Mutt Brigade for a week at doggie day care. Everything seemed normal upon our return. Then, the next morning, I asked Matt, "What the hell are these little black things all over the dining room table?" "I have no idea."

After finding a few more near the kitchen garbage can, it suddenly dawned on me: the creepy chocolate sprinkles were actually MOUSE POOP! Screaming commenced.

I ended up taking a mental health day from work, during which I altered between furious cleaning and passing out due to anxiety medicine. In the mean time, Matt was slightly more productive and called the rental agency. A pest control guy would be there on Monday. By my count, that was three days away, so I'd have to do something about the poop myself. Not cool.

After dinner, I decided that it was time to clean the kitchen. I was not going to sleep in a house with mouse poop. And I was definitely not going to clean mouse poop without gloves. Luckily, I found a pair of latex dish gloves. Unluckily, the poop gnomes didn't magic away the poop, so I started in the kitchen by following a trail of poop that trailed behind the microwave. I shoved the microwave out of the way and SKRIEEEEEEEEKKKK!

For five seconds we just stared at each other, while I alerted the entire world that I found the mouse. Eventually the mouse had enough and ran behind the fridge. Matt, suspecting that something interesting was happening, came running in. He pulled the fridge away from the wall, and I peeked in.
The mouse, holding himself up between the fridge and the wall.

"Now what?" "I guess we pull the fridge out farther." Another inch or two and the mouse fell. Wasting no time, he darted under the fridge.

There was barely an inch of clearance, and certainly not enough room to shove a broom underneath. The evil defiler of homes was safe from my broom. But not for long.

Matt emptied all the beer from the fridge, while I kept watch for escaping rodents. Then, he carefully tilted the fridge forward and VROOM the mouse ran across the kitchen towards the dining room. Not that we had a particularly good plan to catch him, but really? Did he have to make this any harder?

I bolted after him, via the living room, hoping to cut him off. Matt took the direct route through the dining room. The mouse took up residence underneath the liquor cabinet. This time there was enough space to look underneath, but I couldn't see anything. Even after tilting it, no mice appeared.

Okay, fine then. We starting searching around the boxes in the dining room and the living room. Still no mouse, just more mouse poop. Ew. Well, back to the last confirmed location.

Once again, Matt tipped the cabinet. This time the mouse bolted. We chased him across the living room, back through the kitchen, and into the the dining room. Instead of hiding underneath furniture, the mouse took the opposite route and climbed up a dining room chair. He calmly remained perched on the top of the back rest, while I fetched my broom and a plastic bin with a lid.

I snuck up on one side with my broom, while Matt approached with the plastic bin. Once close enough, I bonked him with the bristle end, causing him to half fall and half jump into the bin. Matt slammed the lid down and locked it.

I guess the situation improved, but now what on earth do we do with a mouse in a plastic bin? Why, name him, of course! I'd like to introduce Maurice Mouss, named after Maurice Moss from The I.T. Crowd.

He even looks like a Maurice.

Maurice spent his first night outside, with no food or water. In the morning, I filled a cough syrup measuring cup with water and gave it to him with some dog food. Clearly he had developed a taste for dog food during his free range days, because he ate the whole thing. He also knocked over the water.

By the end of the second day, Maurice's box was filthy and stinky. He clearly built up a reservoir of poop, because there's no way that much poop could have come out of such a small creature. There was no way in hell I was cleaning out the box, so it was time for a new one.

This time I made a proper Maurice box. I used my Leatherman to poke lots of air holes in the top. I lined the bottom with lots of newspaper. And I filled a small disposable tin tray for water. Now the only problem was getting Maurice clean and into the new box. That's where thick silicone barbecue gloves came in handy.

Matt slightly opened the lid, and I reached in and grabbed Maurice. While I held him over the grass, Matt poured water over him, resulting in a cleaner and visibly displeased mouse. Then I popped him in the new box. A new supply of dog biscuits were accepted as a peace offering. Mission accomplished.

The next morning we found Maurice at home. He chewed up newspaper to make himself a comfy nest.
Nom nom bed.

Monday morning finally brought the pest guy. He asked to see a poop sample with which he could identify the perpetrator. I said we had something even better waiting for him. He definitely was not expecting Maurice. In fact, it was the first time someone caught a live mouse and kept it alive for him.

He informed us that Maurice is a rat, not a mouse. I determined it was too late to rename him, as he'd already grown accustomed to Maurice Mouss. The pest guy declared a named rat to be another first.

The pest guy identified about seven thousand possible ingress points and prepared to leave. He offered to take Maurice somewhere safe and release him, but I wasn't ready to say goodbye. Yes, I was attached to the evil little rodent that defiled the entire house.

Matt said that I could keep him if I wanted. And I did want to. But after talking with various people, I couldn't bring myself to keep him. Who knows what sort of horrible salmonella he harbored? And how could Maurice be happy in a box after spending his entire life wandering the earth? I had to set him free.

After work, Matt and I loaded his box into the car and drove to the park at the very top of the hill. We hiked out about a quarter mile, until we found an acceptable bushy area.
Matt and Maurice having a moment.
Matt put the bin down and removed the lid. We both expected Maurice to immediately bolt, but he just stayed there, sniffing. Eventually, we gave up and tilted the container, subtly suggesting that it was time to leave.

Goodbye, Maurice Mouss.

18 December 2013

Bring on the drama!

After the family farce disaster that my previous post caused, I've been very hesitant to post another update without an actual diagnosis. But it's been three months and four specialists since this started, and still no one has any idea what's causing stupid neck syndrome*.

Dr. Oncologist ran out of ideas for which to test. Dr. EarNeckAndThroat ran a similarly thorough series of imaging and blood tests and came up empty. Dr. Lymphodema did a whole body lymphoscintigraphy and made the shocking discovery that my upper left arm has lymphodema. Considering the amount of surgery in that general area, it's actually doing rather well. But she doesn't want to subject me to any treatments stronger than a compression sleeve until the neck issue is straightened out.

About two weeks ago Dr. Rheumatologist received her invitation to the party. After her initial consultation, she prescribed naproxen to help alleviate the pain. Unlike Dr. ENT's steroids, the naproxen actually significantly helped with pain and didn't make me go crazy! I can turn my head to the right! My emotions are no longer limited to cranky and bitchy!

Sounds wonderful, right? Well, not quite. I can't just keep taking naproxen forever, so the actual cause of stupid neck syndrome must still be determined. With that in mind, Dr. Rheumatologist ordered me exsanguinated to the tune of seven vials.

Note to vampires: I do not have possession of these tasty, tasty carafes.

The results of whatever esoteric tests are being run this time are supposed to be in two days from now, on Friday. I won't hold my breath.

* Stupid neck syndrome is characterized by the elongated lymph nodes and the extended and hardened jugular on the right side of my neck, despite both my lymphatic and cardiovascular systems running smoothly.

22 October 2013

unconditionally guaranteed

After years of trying to explain an obscure Captain Beefheart reference, I finally gave up and took my orange claw hammer to both the name and layout that have grown so ugly in my eyes. I must admit, however, it took far too much time to redesign, what with Matt doing all the work and me supervising. But that is now over, and aside from some minor details that you will tactfully ignore, this is the day it finally goes live! Well, without further ado, I'm glad to announce "A Failure of Natural Selection!"

According to all my computer science training, the clear spot for the '!' would be outside of the quotes, as it is not part of the title string. Ergo, despite having succumbed to proper grammatical protocols, I have to ensure there is no confusion in such circumstances.

10 September 2013

Side effects may include abdominal pain, anal leakage, and esophageal tumors

I volunteered for take your child to work day because I had nothing else to do on a Thursday afternoon. Why just the afternoon? My morning was already booked with happy fun time shot of Lupron. Therefore, aside from the obvious problems associated with putting me in front of a bunch of impressionable youths, there were no other reasons for the organizers to be worried. So I fainted.

I was informed afterwards that I was out for about 10 seconds and my eyes rolled back into my head. And yet somehow I convinced everyone not to call an ambulance, since the person who just lost consciousness is clearly the person who should be making medical decisions. More than one doctor made me promise not to do that again. Yes, the next time my brain completely misfires, I swear I will be more rational.

My brain continued to misfire for the next few weeks. Massive headaches, severe balance issues, and lots of nearly fainting. To top it all off, I managed to get TWO periods because why not. So instead of going to work, I spent lots of quality time in cold exam rooms under the tutelage of various doctors.

After thousands of dollars worth of nearly every medical test possible, not one doctor could satisfactorily explain what went wrong. The only thing they agreed upon was that things went awry.  Useful.

Time for another stab in the butt! This time things went more according to plan. The hot flashes came back and the brain problems stayed away for an entire month. At my next pre-stabby-time conference with Dr. Oncologist, she became suspicious. Completely unheard of side effects randomly appearing mere hours after administration that disappeared equally mystifyingly the next month? Sounds like a bad batch.

A quick look through my dismayingly large file revealed that the lot number on the malfeasant dose was different from all of the others. While rare, bad batches* do occasionally occur, so she was going to look into it.

Then things got really weird. Blood tests revealed that my hormone levels were correct for someone on Lupron. Clearly the drug was working, and yet Aunt Flo continued her monthly visits. Dr. Gynecologist and Dr. Oncologist asked colleagues for second, third, and twenty-seventh opinions, but no one could explain it. They concluded that it had to be some sort of fluke and that it wouldn't happen again next month.

Was anyone surprised when they turned out to be wrong? Nope! An ultrasound revealed that the cyst on my left ovary was back, and Dr. Gynecologist dove in for a closer look. She took a sample of uterine lining straight from the source, which was merely uncomfortable. The biopsy, on the other hand, was absolutely horrible.

Using the external ultrasound, Dr. Gynecologist attacked with a ten inch needle via the internal route. She stabbed her way into the normal looking cyst on my left ovary and grabbed a piece of tissue. Even worse, it took ten excruciatingly long seconds. "One one thousand. Two one thousand..."

The assisting nurse wiped away my tears, while complementing me on my lack of screaming. I think it's safe to assume that will never happen again. Then came the bad news - I have two ovaries. Time for round two, despite the right side never having any cysts.

I patiently waited a full week for the results. There was absolutely no random panicking or needless fretting. I certainly didn't check my phone for missed calls every three seconds. And yet the phone eventually rang! Everything was normal, for whatever version of normal applies to my entrails.

Still completely unable to explain what was happening, the doctor brigade decided to continue with the Lupron shots. Any further weirdness would trigger a new round of intricate tests of my intimate parts, but there was nothing left unturned for now.

I assume my ovaries were waiting to hear that. "We've experienced every possible test, so let's behave for awhile and see if something new happens!" "Great idea!" Miraculously they did just that - August came and went without a period. I can only hope September is similarly uneventful, but I'm not holding my breath.

Unscrupulous douche canoes sell watered down or completely fake medicine to idiots who don't stop to think "huh, this brand new supplier is disturbingly cheap." Dr. Oncologist assured me that this was not the case here. If it was a bad batch, it was a legitimately manufactured bad batch. Yay?