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Looking forward to going back to work

This time next week I’ll be back at work.  I can’t say I’m exactly looking forward to it but needs must!

I’m certainly feeling up to the task.  I’ve been walking in the garden every day and only experience the odd discomfort.  I still tend to take Paracetamol (Tylenol) before bed because of my discomfort on my left-hand side.  I’m still waiting for the letter from Mr Big’s secretary to tell me why I’ve been so uncomfortable on that side.  From how I feel, I would say that I’ve been scraped on the inside along that side.  Perhaps my fibroids were harder to remove than previously suspected?

A friend told me that I could expect to lose weight while off work and at first I did – after surgery and having a stomach bug, it was to be expected.  However, I have also been eating little and often – as instructed by my clinical nurse.   Bearing  in mind I have insulin resistance, grazing does not suit me.  Before the surgery, thanks mainly to Pilates I think, I dropped a dress size (UK14 to UK12) but I fear I’ve gone back up to 14 when I indulged in grazing and stopped doing the Pilates every day.  When I get back to work and into my usual routine, I’ll go back to my usual diet of large meals mainly consisting of meat and lots of vegetables.  Of course I have carbohydrate too, but my usual diet has just 20 grams of carbohydrate per meal per day.  Lucky for me, I’ve not given away my bigger clothes yet!

Foxy

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Hysterectomy: A Small Setback on the Road to Recovery

A lot of what I’m about to say may be a bit TMI so if you don’t fancy it, don’t read on.  I’ve had a rough few days.  On Tuesday evening I had some very painful wind which was different from the post-op wind that I’d been having. The post-op wind had very little odour.  The wind on Tuesday night was more malodorous!  Helios was not impressed but when I told him how much it was hurting, he was sympathetic.

I woke on Wednesday to diarrhoea, then vomiting.  Lucky for me it was more the diarrhoea than the vomiting – twice shouting at the porcelain god was bad enough when I’ve got all these stitches in my belly!  I was hot.  I was cold.  I was hot again.  Helios was worried and we called my nurse before the vomiting started.  My nurse said that if my symptoms worsened then I needed to call a doctor and that’s precisely what Helios did when I started vomiting.  I felt rancid.  I didn’t even have enough energy to crack a joke (which, for me is saying something!) I wanted to go to sleep for about 3 days.  I was worried that I’d done some damage to myself by retching.

When the doctor arrived for the house call she gave me some tablets to place between my lip and my gums – to allow this to dissolve and this did finally help with the nausea.  She also checked my belly and said that I seemed to be healing OK.  She was satisfied that I’d merely picked up a bug and that I ought to be feeling better soon.  I, however, felt I’d taken a step back in healing.  I was still hot and cold and struggled to drink anything.  Helios was scheduled to go to work in the afternoons on Wednesday and Thursday but he stayed home with me instead – he said the office can wait,  I’m more important.  I will digress here for a moment and say that the last husband went back to work after my first operation.  He thought I would be well enough to supervise the builders that were in the house at the time, which I certainly was not well enough to manage at the time!  Needless to say, I am grateful for my life with Helios now!

Speaking of grateful, I also received a couple of “Get well soon” cards and even some flowers from my work on Wednesday.  Needless to say, Helios took them in, gave them some water and took a photo on his phone to show to me.  They’re still lovely but I was in such a state on Wednesday that I could merely glance at the photo on his phone and say “Oh those are nice!  I need some more sleep.”  Helios took care of telephoning his mum (who sent one of the “Get well soon” cards) and forwarded the photo to my line manager at work.  He didn’t give any details of my condition – he said that I could do that when I was feeling better.

Helios also Skyped my mom who was concerned until she heard that he had organised the doctor to make a house call.  Firstly she was delighted that I’d seen a doctor earlier that morning and she was also amazed that doctors in England make house calls.  In the US, she says, if you cannot make it to the hospital under your own steam, you call an ambulance.  Doctors do not come to you!  When Helios relayed the conversation to me he said “England is a civilised country.”  Because I pay for the National Health Service in my taxes, I didn’t have to get out my cheque book to pay the doctor when she arrived.  Of course we paid for my prescription but that is a standard fee that is applicable to every prescription.  I don’t think that £7.50 is an awful lot for something that you need.  £7.50 is slightly more than the cost of a  standard sized fast food meal consisting of sandwich, fries and a soda (which is about £6 per meal at my favourite outlet in Town).

On Wednesday night Helios managed to talk me into eating a little plain boiled rice for tea – I managed about half a bowl full after a whole day of eating nothing but small nibbles of one rye cracker.  I did better drinking water as the day went on so I decided I was confident to take a couple of paracetamol (Tylenol)  before bed.  After spending hours going back and forth being unable to sleep, it was nice to get a good 6 hours in!  I woke at 3am and read.  Poor Helios, in order not to wake me, stayed on the sofa.

Thursday morning I managed a little yoghurt and a banana.  It wasn’t good for me because of my insulin problem but it was nice to have some actual food in me.  I had some more diarrhoea throughout the day but at least the nausea appeared to finally be a thing of the past – as was the fever and chills! However, I still had very little energy.  I got up and watched half of an hour long TV show and then went back to bed.  I just couldn’t stay sitting up for any longer and went to sleep.  Helios stayed with me again all day Thursday to be sure I was OK and wanted for nothing.  Again, he slept on the sofa Thursday night and I was grateful for it – I’m not sleeping whole nights at the moment and thought he’d probably get a better night’s rest without me tossing and turning beside him.

At some point my nurse who is monitoring my recovery called.  She wasn’t as concerned about the diarrhoea as I was: I wasn’t putting any pressure on my stitches by pushing.  Despite the fact that I was uncomfortable, I was also relieved that my wounds are safe.

Friday was finally uneventful.  I had something small for breakfast, chicken and rice for lunch and then Helios brought home some soup for tea.  I was feeling so bright that I insisted he go to work that afternoon (as previously planned) but before he left he changed and boil-washed the sheets and fed me lunch before he left.  As I was feeling better in myself (or should I say I was feeling more like myself), it was nice to have a little time to sit and vegetate on the sofa without a doting husband around.

I Skyped my mom yesterday afternoon because I knew she would worry if I didn’t call and she seemed pleased with my colour.  Of course seeing Mom in person is better but Skype is a wonderful thing to keep in touch!  Not only could she hear that I was sounding OK but that I looked and moved OK and that I was clearly drinking enough water as we were chatting.  Brilliant invention!  And it’s FREE to use if both parties are members!  My favourite price!

Hopefully now I’m well on my way to feeling like a new woman!

Foxy

Good News

A friend of mine was complaining the other day so I wanted you to remember that I’m one of the lucky ones: I don’t have pain so bad so often that I need to take disability!  Some of my American friends are made to feel lower than dirt because they’re unable to work, because they demand medical attention, because they’re unable to pay for the constant medical attention they require.  They have to choose which medications they take even though they are told by a doctor that they need everything on the list due to financial reasons.  Don’t forget I was made to feel like a “girl who cried wolf” for over 20 years before I finally got a diagnosis!  Imagine vomiting from pain and then being told “That’s normal – stop your moaning and get on with it!”

Just because I have a happy marriage now and I’m able to hold down a job at the moment doesn’t mean that there haven’t been times when I’ve been treated badly.

I finally achieved a diagnosis (I want to say it was 2005 but may have been 2004) of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Insulin Resistance and Endometriosis.  Sadly, this had a number of ramifications: I was a vegetarian and had to completely change my diet.  When I told my ex-husband that I needed to start to eat meat he said “Do you have to?” as if I had a choice!

I was in a spiral of pain and depression – when I was struggling physically my ex would imply I was lazy.  His parents didn’t respect me.  When I would struggle at work I would make mistakes which lead to complaints which lead to more mistakes…  After years of being told you aren’t worth much, you start to believe it.

I had to change the way I thought about myself.  So on the one hand I was delighted to know that my pain wasn’t in my head but on the other I needed to think about my body in a completely different way: I have limitations.  This fact didn’t sink in for a number of months/years and I wound up taking a number of medications in order to get myself into some sort of order – not to mention I wanted to pretend that my illnesses would not affect my “normality”.  I took pregabalin which is a medicine that is mainly used to treat epilepsy. It works by stabilising electrical activity in the brain.  As pregabalin stabilises electrical nerve activity, it is also used to treat pain that occurs a result of damage to or a disturbance in the function of nerves (neuropathic pain).  I took metformin for my insulin problem.  I took Mefenamic Acid (prescription anti-inflammatory), paracetamol and codeine for pain.  I took laxatives for the codeine side-effects.  I was taken off birth control and given HRT patches.  I took St Johns Wort when I was off The Pill but gave it up again when I went back on it.  I took Milk Thistle for my PMS.  Finally I gave in and took prozac for the inevitable depression that I was in thanks to the never-ending pain.  I positively rattled!  I was in the position of taking so many medications that I was getting some terrible side effects and taking medications for the side-effects.

I moved jobs – from the solicitors’ firm where Helios and I met to a pharmaceutical company.  The best thing I ever did was leave law.  I think they were in the process of trying to push me out anyway.  I am a very good secretary and office administrator but, in that poisonous environment I only went from bad to worse.  The pharma company wasn’t great either but it was better than lawyers!  Ultimately I was made redundant form the pharma company just a few weeks after my third laparoscopy – in December 2008.  Happy Christmas to you!  I agreed because they gave me a generous settlement.  I could easily say that my health was a factor in their decision and I’m sure that’s why they were so generous.  I didn’t have the energy to fight it even if I did want to.  I spent 2009 going from one temporary position to another.  Financially I was a mess but things were looking up.  I came off a majority of the pills and, thanks to the most recent surgery, my pain was at an all-time minimum.

My point is that you don’t know what life will give you.  When you are given terrible news, you will probably struggle too but I know you will manage.  Until then you have to take one day at a time.

Foxy

 

National Health Service

As you know I’ve always been an advocate of the National Health Service.  I think it’s a fair way to allocate funding for illness and a sign of a civilised society.

Let’s talk about funding for a health service for a moment.  I’m originally from the US but now live in the UK.  I currently hold down a decent full-time job.  Last year I had 3 days off work sick.  I am a productive member of society.  Technically speaking I ought to be able to afford any sort of health care payments.  So why do I prefer NHS?

I dislike ambiguity in my life.  For example, Helios and I have a mortgage that we pay every month.  When we took out the loan, I insisted that we have a repayment mortgage at a fixed percentage rate: I wanted to be sure that we know what the outgoings are every month and that the flat would be ours at the end of the term.  A state-funded health care system provides me with the same concrete certainty: I know what I must pay every month and I know that my policy will cover me throughout my life at a rate that I can afford.

I am not at the mercy of an insurance company that can change my status from “healthy” to “unhealthy” on a diagnosis and therefore require me to pay more in premiums than I cannot afford.  Although I am a productive member of society, I have a number of chronic illnesses.  Since 2005 I have had three laparoscopic surgeries and a raft of prescriptions to treat PCOS, Insulin Resistance, Endometriosis, Depression and lichen planus: a stress-related skin condition.  Had I remained in the US, I cannot imagine being able to afford adequate healthcare despite the fact that I am healthy enough to be a productive member of society.

A state-funded health service ensures that everyone has the health care they need in a reasonable timeframe.  People who are less healthy are not penalised for their situation.  Everyone pays what they can reasonably afford.  Everyone is covered no matter what their condition.  It’s concrete coverage.

A state-funded health service ensures that my money isn’t going to greedy corporations.  I compare insurance companies to banks: they’re only out for themselves.  How can anyone afford adequate healthcare when insurance companies are essentially middle-men who get paid to ensure sky-rocketing prices?

In the National Health Service there are no hidden extras: I go to the doctor when I need to, as often as I need to and walk out the door after the appointment.  No need to stop at reception and get out my credit card.  I go to the pharmacy and pay a flat fee for each of my prescriptions.  When I compare this with the US system, many insurance policies require patients to call to authorise appointments and treatment and, to add insult to injury, only cover a percentage of treatment.  To my mind, what is good for insurance companies is bad for patients.

The last time I mentioned the NHS I had a number of volatile comments.  I was surprised at the venom I instigated: as if I didn’t pay for healthcare.  Please remember that I pay for my health care.  I pay my taxes.  My country has cut out the middle-man of the insurance industry and my taxes go directly to the NHS.  I do not begrudge paying taxes when I know that my tax money is funding projects that I am happy to fund: the NHS is at the top of that list.  Thanks to the National Health Service, I am not over-burdened financially and am a successful member of society.

I think the US system is fundamentally flawed.  How would I have coped with all my health problems if I had to pay a bill on top?  It’s an extra stress that those of us with chronic illnesses do not need.  Please remember that I have illnesses.  I didn’t ask for my health problems.  Thanks to my steadfast National Health Service, I will remain a positive member of society for many years to come.

Foxy

Embarrassing Bodies – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Recently PCOS has featured a couple of times on the TV show: “Embarrassing Bodies” here in the UK.  As if having Endometriosis wasn’t bad enough, I’ve got PCOS as well.  I therefore had no problem identifying the PCOS sufferers on the programme.

As with endometriosis, PCOS can take a few years to diagnose.  In my case, I can almost understand the confusion when diagnosing: I don’t have the principal symptom of menstrual disturbance because I’ve been taking the birth control pill for so many years.  However, when I was a young teen, my symptoms included: acne (At one point I was on a course of tetracycline for my acne), a slight excess of hair growth (Hey Mom!  Remember how sensitive I was about developing a moustache when I was still in high school?!), skin tags and dandruff.  As far as I was concerned, my skin and hair couldn’t possibly be related to my ovaries!

Infertility is also a symptom and I was found to have the characteristic multiple small cysts in the ovaries during an ultrasound scan.  The three symptoms that define PCOS are: polycystic ovaries, raised male hormone levels and reduced ovulation.

Other symptoms for less lucky women include more severe male patterned hair growth and male patterned baldness.  For me, the excess dark facial hair and dark back hair were the obvious symptoms that identified the patients on Embarrassing Bodies.  I felt sorry for them and I feel I have to ask: how desperate must you be to go on national television in order to get treatment?  I don’t know why these people cannot seem to get treatment they need from their own doctors but I find it scandalous that someone would feel the need to parade themselves on national TV.  Could it be that people want to raise awareness for their maladies?  Or are they irretrievably stupid?

As with endometriosis, women with PCOS have a higher risk for other illnesses.  For PCOS these include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer of the endometrium (uterine lining) and endometrial cancer (uterus).

While I’m not overweight, obesity is associated with PCOS.  I also have insulin resistance (which I regularly call prediabetes for ease of understanding).  Women with PCOS are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes – particularly if we have a family history of diabetes.

Like endometriosis, there is no cure for PCOS and treatment is normally directed to manifestations of PCOS: I am on a PCOS diet and may be prescribed with Metformin (Glucophage) should my insulin resistance symptoms worsen.  For women with particularly low oestrogen levels, they are given HRT patches.  Unfortunately for me, it was the HRT patches that worsened my endometriosis symptoms and ultimately made me beg for my third laparoscopy to clear the growing endo.  Balance of hormones is, for me, the trick that I’ve had to work to achieve.

Finally, like Endo, PCOS is frightfully common.  Research studies of women who had an ultrasound scan of their ovaries found that up to 1 in 4 women have polycystic ovaries.  Many of these women were otherwise healthy, ovulated normally and did not have high levels of mal hormones.  It is thought that up to 1 in 10 women have polycystic ovary syndrome (i.e. at least two of polycystic ovaries, raised male hormone levels and reduced ovulation) but it is thought that these figures may be higher.

Wishing us all a healthier tomorrow!

Foxy

Last week

I went out with some friends to have an early birthday celebration Tuesday evening which was very nice for me.  The major mistake I made was having a coffee at the end of the meal which I am sure had caffeine in even though I specifically asked for a decaffeinated.  I knew I was in trouble when the heart palpitations started.  As a result, I was still awake at 2:30am when I finally decided to take a sleeping tablet (Mom, don’t worry I only take them in cases of dire emergency – so far only twice in my life!) and prayed that I would get a little shut-eye before work.

The good thing about going out with friends is coming home to family.  Instead of having a fattening take-away, Helios had a very healthy salad.  I couldn’t help but be impressed.  There was enough left over for me to take as lunch the next day and I gratefully took it.

As if my evening couldn’t get better it suddenly did.  Apollo was online again and the three of us had a great chat about books and TV and our upcoming trip to Plymouth.  Helios asked him if he wanted book vouchers and he said something about us all going to the bookshop.  Well, I thought that was a smashing idea because I’m sure I’ll need his opinion on some new reading material by then.

I didn’t mention Maia to Apollo as I consider her relationship with us to be a separate matter to his relationship to us.  Maybe that was the wrong thing to do because I think they all still live under the same roof but it’s done now and I can’t go around second-guessing all my actions when it comes to Maia at the minute.  If she decides to be angry I’m sure she’ll find all the ammunition she needs without us roping her brother into the equation.  By this I mean – if she’s bound and determined to be angry, I don’t want her to be angry at her brother as well.

I got so little sleep on Monday and Tuesday nights that I went to bed at 8:30 Wednesday night and slept like a log.  Unfortunately, I was back to my usual inability to sleep Thursday night.  I laid there and thought about Maia until midnight when I got up for the toilet.  When I looked at the clock I thought “I’ll be awake until3 if I don’t do something drastic.” So I took a sleeping tablet – my second this week – and finally drifted off after perhaps another hour or so thinking about Maia and Apollo.    Does every parent have this problem or am I just not coping with the transition of becoming a step-parent?

I saw some friends from the Courts Service on Thursday night.  It was a nice night considering that the forecast was for rain.  We wound up sitting outside and I caught up with all the gossip down there.  Liz sends her regards…

Friday was my birthday.  I’m 39 and I’m not unhappy about it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a particular problem with the thought of getting older.  However, I am more than a little surprised at how quickly 39 has snuck up on me!  Helios got me a great book and I received some lovely cards at work.

I got home that evening and, instead of Helios saying “Did you have a good day?” or “Did you enjoy your birthday?”  Instead he said “Where are your flowers??” and proceeded to stomp around the flat for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately the florist closed their offices at 6pm and Helios had to wait until the next morning to sort out the problem.  In the meantime I rang my office at about 6:30pm to see if the flowers had arrived while I was driving home.  They hadn’t.  Then the next morning Helios rang the florists who were extremely apologetic and they gave him a full refund and they sent some apology flowers.  A bit later on, I found a message on my mobile phone from someone at work, they received my flowers just before 7pm and I collected them.  I now have two bundles of flowers and Helios isn’t out of pocket.  More importantly the flowers he got me are beautiful purple irises and yellow roses.  He’s just great for remembering I like them.

I saw friends on Sunday for a couple of hours but beyond that I did nothing.  Once again, it’s a Bank Holiday weekend in England and I don’t have to go to work today.

I’m doing very well with my money at the moment.  I get paid on the last Friday of every month, which means that some months are a lot longer than others.  In fact this month I’ve had to make sure that I had enough money to pay the mortgage twice. Instead of getting my monthly payment sorted at the bank, I wanted to see if I could manage to pay the mortgage with what I’m managing to save.  Not only did I manage it but I had a little room to spare so I’ve paid another chunk off the credit card and I’ll start saving the rest (just in case the refrigerator breaks down like I think it’s going to because it’s making that funny noise again)!  I have a good incentive to keep saving, I want to go to Texas to see some old friends in December.  In the meantime I have trips to see Maia and Apollo to look forward to and it will be nice to spoil them a little when we see them in August.

Work is going well.  I had my boss in stitches on Friday.  One of the guys came upstairs and asked if my fantastic husband was a chef (as he stood munching the cookies I brought in for my birthday).  I said no but picked up his photo and said that he’s irresistible.  So as this bloke said something sarcastic and my boss said something about Helios walking down the street and this bloke swooning, I said “Look at this bloke!  He’s only human.  There no way he’d be able to resist!”  I certainly couldn’t.

Foxy

Springing?

My walk to work has finally started to feel as though the seasons are turning.  It’s not British Summertime yet and I’m already walking to the train station in the sunshine.  When I say sunshine I mean at least it is light even if it’s not bright sunshine behind the clouds and rain!  However, the clouds and rain don’t get me down.  The spring bulbs are beginning to push their way to the light and awakening that happy summertime place in me at the same time.  I cannot stress enough just how lovely it is to walk to the station every morning and appreciate everything we have.

In the evenings it is finally light enough that the street lamps haven’t come on when I leave the office for the train.  Funny how something as ordinary as light is so fundamental.

Although my dreams weren’t so bad last night, I’m tired and woolly headed today.  In fact, I’ve been a bit woolly headed for a little while now.  It usually happens in the middle of the afternoon.  I still take Metformin religiously every morning but regularly forget in the evenings.  So, in an effort to feel better, I’ve started taking the Metformin again in the evenings.  However, I still cannot quite work out how Metformin works with my body chemistry.  I expect I’ll have to get retested soon because there are days when I’m walking down the stairs and I worry about falling down.  I’m waiting for my probation period to end before I do anything because I really don’t want to lose this job.  I’m terrified that if they think I’m unhealthy they’ll decide not to keep me – and I really cannot afford another year like last year.  Oh sure, I managed to survive it and keep the flat going but the stress of it was terrible.  Luckily I’m over half way through my probation period now, so I’ll get it sorted as soon as possible.

The good news is that I’m finally in a job where I can easily get through what I need to in a day and remain calm about it all.  Stress and a woolly head do not mix!  It’s on days like today that I’m grateful that I don’t have a more stressful job.  The people here are warm and friendly and seem supportive to one another.  It is such a relief to be in the routine of coming to work and not dreading it.

I wonder sometimes if I’m mistaking my woolly head for fatigue.  It’s difficult to know sometimes if I’m simply tired because I never seem to drift off well.  I never seem to sleep very long and, because I remember so many dreams, I know I don’t get very restful sleep.  Strangely enough, I tend to feel fine by the time I get home.  I wonder if that’s a clue?  I’ll get it sorted soon enough.

Foxy