Friday, March 28, 2014

at least it's friday.... ?

it's been an interesting week.

i'm still off my rheumatoid disease meds - no methotrexate (chemo), no enbrel.  of course, it was time to switch from enbrel to humira anyway.  this last week the pain and fatigue have REALLY caught up with me.  very upsetting.

last friday night was the billy joel concert - so much fun!  awesome husband @_antgas and i had a great time.  billy played some old songs that don't get played that much.  taking a cue from @_antgas, i used my iPhone to note the set list so i'll always remember what i've heard live.  this was my ninth time seeing him though (i think.  it sounds about right) sooooooo there's a lot missing from what i've seen played live.

i took a few photos too.  our seats were right behind the stage in the 300 section, which is this weird bridge thing.  we were in the front row and it was great - no one in front of me.  i was able to sit the entire show and still see, and the sound was still great.

our view of the stage before the concert

yay! billy!

billy's piano spins.

on the train to the city, there were two couples pregaming the billy joel concert on the train (yes, this is long island).  we were going through the valley stream station and one of the girls goes, 'this is where i used to live, valley stream.... suffolk is so white trash'.  if you're from long island, you'll see why this was HYSTERICAL coming from a woman pregaming billy joel on the train drinking miller lite out of a can.... hysterical.

we missed the train on the way home.  damn it.  we caught the first train from penn station into babylon, where we had to transfer, but we missed the transfer by a couple of minutes.  stupid.  so we had an hour to kill at 12:30 in the morning, which meant listening to what i suspect was a homeless woman cough like she was dying while smoking cigarettes and watching drunk people (some of whom were wearing really high heels) run up and down the escalators, since of course they weren't working.

when we got on the train home, a group of kids (probably mid-twenties.  that's how you know you're old, when you refer to 20-somethings as 'kids') stumbled up with the conductor right on their heels yelling at them about delaying the train.  apparently one of the kids leaned out the door to light and smoke a cigarette while we were stopped at a station.... um, really?  once the conductor walked away, the guys were SUCH DOUCHECANOES.  so bad.

i slept late on saturday and we took it pretty easy all weekend.  but i was still tired on monday - fell back asleep and took a nap in the afternoon.  same on wednesday - tuesday and thursday i interned and did alright.  but today i turned off my alarm and fell back asleep - for two hours!  i had to rush to get ready to go to my therapist appointment.  which was emotional enough itself, of course.

piglet's maintaing.  sort of.  it's been about 6 weeks since we noticed piglet's tooth injury.  we knew it would probably have to come out; the vet said it would probably die so i was watching for that.  in early march, her tooth started to look a little worse, so i called the vet to have it extracted.  that's when they found out her kidneys were failing - pre-surgery blood work.  i've been going back and forth and trying to talk through what's happening and what our options are.  that was three weeks ago today, and on wednesday i realized her tooth was looking really bad - it's like it's completely covered by the gums (it's a canine tooth).  shit.  so i called the vet and told them and was like, i can't wait any longer.  we need more bloodwork to see if she's improved at all with her modified diet.  that tooth needs to come out, and we can't do that unless her kidneys improve.  she's been on antibiotics this entire time and her tooth has only gotten worse.  but the vet thought maybe her numbers were so bad because she had a kidney infection - if that was the case, her numbers should have improved... right?  ugh.

oh, and i never did get my tattoo touch up.  i still felt too poorly on my appointment day to go in and get it done.  i'm planning on starting my chemo again tonight or tomorrow and the humira is being delivered tomorrow.  i have to decide when i'm starting that.  hopefully soon because everything hurts.

after the vet tomorrow, we have a pretty relaxing weekend lined up.  hanging out with friends tomorrow night and just cleaning and laundry the rest of the time.  i hope that my meds will start doing their shit soon enough and then i'll feel GREAT!  right? ;)

me and piglet <3 i="">

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

diy post! prettify your stupid old knife block!

it's that time again!  another DIY post.  awesome husband @_antgas and i got married about nine and a half years ago.  ten years ago this spring/summer, we were getting our bridal shower gifts.  i registered for my first set of knives, and they've served me pretty well.  a set of calphalon knives with a useless sharpener and one of those big forks you only use when carving meat.  which i never do any more.  but still.  

it's definitely seen better days.  it has little chips and marks where i stabbed it unceremoniously trying to place a knife back in it's little home slot.  it's been exposed to water and oil and yuck.  while perusing the interwebz looking for ideas for a craft party i'm hosting (yup, that's happening too) i came across painted or refinished or decorated knife blocks.  DING! went the bell in my head.  i can do that and make it SO BRIGHT to fit in my ridiculously colored kitchen.  i made a list of crap i needed and had awesome husband @_antgas on hand for elbow grease (well, hand grease because my hands aren't doing so well) and off i went....

so first i had @_antgas remove this little metal plate thingy on the front of the knife block.  we realized we'd need wood filler for the screw hole thingies, along with sand paper, spray paint, and clear polyurethane.  so off to the craft stores we went... (now i know that i can get the paints cheaper at the home depot or lowes.  which i'll do if i ever spray paint craft again.  which i probably will because it was fun and easy).

you will need:
  1. your old knife block.  or someone's old knife block, preferably with their permission.  or thrift one.  
  2. wood filler if you have teensy holes to fill in.  some people online used spackle too, but i wanted to get wood filler because we have another potential project in mind that will require wood filler.
  3. whatever color spray paint you're interested in using.  i like krylon - we've used it before and have always had good results with it.
  4. clear polyurethane to help seal it and protect it from water and other damage.
  5. sandpaper - we got a packet at the craft store that had three grades.  i threw out the packet, but i think it hat 60, 100, and 150 from roughest to finest.

so this is what my newly cleaned and naked knife block looked like after awesome husband @_antgas removed the calphalon plate on the front.  i wiped it down with a mild solution of water and vinegar to remove all the grease and dirt and whatnot.  

i smushed a bunch of wood filler in the holes and smoothed it as best as i could.  wait until it's safe to sand and paint - the info for that should be on the packaging of whatever wood filler you choose.

sand the entire thing down, starting with the roughest sandpaper.  the 60 grade was perfect for getting off whatever old sealer stuff was on there and helped smooth out the area where the metal plate was.  because my hands and fingers were not cooperating this day, i had @_antgas help sand it all down.  we sanded all the areas we planned to paint and paid special attention to the rounded edges.  i wiped it down with a damp rag between each grade of sand paper to get rid of all the dust.

all sanded down and ready to go!  run your hands over all of it to make sure there aren't any rough spots, hard edges, whatever.  it should be nice and smooth.  be sure it's free of dust before you paint.

at this point you can prime.  if you have a darker wood or are painting with a light color, priming would be a good idea.  you can buy a spray primer or use a canned primer.  if you use a canned one, i'd apply it with a sponge brush.  after priming you may want to sand it a little more to make sure the brush strokes are not obvious.

set your shit up outside.  spray paint smells A LOT and can be super bad for your lungs.  if you have a well-ventilated garage, feel free to paint in there.  we set up some old magazine stuff on the patio and spray painted out there. i may or may not have gotten a bit of orange on the patio.  i'm sure it will come off..... eventually.

a few things about spray paint:  don't do it when it's too cold or too hot.  don't do it when it's super humid.  this can cause the paint to run or not dry/cure properly.  hold the can 6-8 inches from the item and use short, sweeping motions.  all of this crap is listed right on the back of your can, so, you know.  read it.  i didn't worry too much about spraying IN the slots or holes; you won't see that.  and we didn't paint the bottom for the same (obvious) reason.

read your polyurethane too and make sure the paint is dry enough to seal.  do the same thing - outside, well-ventilated, sweeping motions, etc.

i let mine sit for two days before putting anything back in it to make sure it was cured enough that the knife handles sitting on the wood face wouldn't damage or nick or imprint or anything.

then just this morning, i put all my sharp things back in my knife block and put it back in its home on the counter.  and i love it!  it's so bright and looks great.  the color is krylon bauhaus gold.  it's orange yellow, not too orange but not straight yellow.

i love having bright colors.  i have a yellow mini keurig, poppy red paper towel holder, a red kitchen aid stand mixer, and now this.  i'm already planning on replacing my old and worn toaster oven with something spectacular.

some of the other tutorials i saw online had people putting little decorations or monograms or designs on the knife block.  i couldn't really find a stencil i liked and i didn't want to put something 3d on it.  i figure if i come across something i would like to stencil on, i can do it whenever and just put another coat of polyurethane on it.

if you have done this or do it, share!  let us know how it came out and if you have any other tips or tricks on upcycling stuff from the kitchen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ahh, wednesday.

i'm finally not really that sick any longer.  it's been two weeks since i started feeling ill and i'm still a little snotty and coughing a bit.  i can't fucking wait until it's all cleared up.  it better be soon.  ugh.

my birthday was last week.  and i was sick.  so, you know.  awesome husband @_antgas and i went to benihana (if you have a local location, join their chef's club and you'll get a $30 certificate for your birthday!) and ate A LOT.  then on my birthday we went over our friends' house and had nathan's for dinner.  it was very nice and nostalgic: when we were younger, my mom would pick up nathan's hot dogs and french fries for a special dinner on our birthdays.  she'd also get this lemony cake for dessert.  i don't know how many years we did it, but i remember it being a thing.  the next night we had greek food and ice cream with my bestie for forever.

my dad's birthday is the week before mine, so we've often done joint birthday things.  on sunday, we went to our favorite steak house with dad, my brother, his fiancee sisterfromanothermister, and my twin half sisters.  it was lots of food and lots of fun.  i had a meat-ful weekend.

so much meat.  so much.

i'm not eating meat until saturday again.  @_antgas' mom is having st. patrick's day.  we didn't do anything for st. paddy's day because i won't cook meat and we don't drink... so, kind of pointless.  but for saturday i'm planning on making scratch irish soda bread - one without raisins because i hate raisins - and i might make my family's cole slaw.

i've been off my meds forever, it feels like.  my joints are screaming.  and the fatigue is coming back. it's like just existing in this much pain causes fatigue.  i'm kind of over it.

i'm getting some tattoo work done on thursday, not too much but a bit.  my rheumy said i should stop taking my meds for a week before and a week after if i want to get tattooed.  i've been off for over two weeks, almost three.  but then i have to wait for another week before i can start humira.  which is the next biologic drug we're trying.  enbrel didn't do shit.  i only hope humira does something.

piglet seems to be.... well, piglet.  her tooth is definitely getting worse, but she's still drinking and eating and peeing and pooping.  of course, every cat vomited everywhere last night.  damn it.  we'll bring piglet back in about two weeks to have another round of blood work and see if anything's changed.  i guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

home with with cats

i'm still so sick.  i'm completely over it.  i had to call into my intership today, which i hate doing.  but it's like every morning i've woken up and felt worse.  i went to urgent care on sunday and got some antibiotics and flonase and whatever.  the doctor said it's an upper respiratory infection and i'm so over it.  i'm going to see my rheumatologist tomorrow to talk about starting a new biologic medication - of course, i won't be able to start until after this stupid plague is done.  humira is most likely next on the list.

samantha has been snuggling with me a lot.  jake has HATED piglet since she came home from the vet on friday with her saddlebag of saline (cats get like a lump area where the fluid collects after received subq fluids.  it gets absorbed over a couple of hours).  every time he saw piglet, jake would just start hissing.  now she can sometimes get close to him, especially at feeding time, before he starts hissing.  i'm not sure what to make of it.  at first, i was like, maybe she smells like the vet or like alcohol - i remember one time when samantha went to the vet, piglet hissed at her for a day or so and sammy had blood drawn, so she smelled a bit like rubbing alcohol.  but it's been like four days, jake, calm the fuck down.

but then i think, what if jake can tell something big is wrong?  what if now he knows that piglet is, like, dying or something and he's scared?  what if her aura has changed and jake is sensitive to that?

or what if jake is just a huge fucking asshole of a cat?

anyway, we have antibiotic pills that we have to give piglet daily.  amoxicillin, 50mg.  it's not easy to pill a cat.  but we're working on it.  i've also done some food research with the help of a friend who owns a pet store and has some friends in the know.  i wanted a kibble that is okay for all of the cats because it's hard to keep them out of each other's kibble - they don't always eat it all at once.  when i feed them wet food, i watch them so it's easier to keep them separated.  we decided on a wellness kibble with high quality protein sources, but it has grain.  i'm not thrilled because jake seemed to be doing very well on grain free.  we'll see what happens there.  as for food, right now sammy and jake are going to finish up some of the freeze dried raw we have and for piglet we have a couple of cans of iams and purina kidney diet.  i'm hoping to order a couple of cans of royal canin's kidney diet too and see which piglet likes.  she's actually eating most of the iams, so that's something.

the problem is breakfast and nighttime snack - we don't always watch them.  so nighttime snack is kibble and for now breakfast is too.  once i'm not sick any longer and am waking up early again, the cats will probably get a quality wet food, not prescription.  i know so many people are like 'but your cat needs prescription food, that's what the vet says'.  and i totally respect the vet's advice.  as intent as i have been feeding raw, it's not good for all cats and i understand that now.  sammy and jake seem to be doing okay on raw, but it's like i don't know what to do.  we fed taylor whatever crap food and he developed kidney failure.  we put him to sleep three years ago last week - on march 8.  piglet was diagnosed march 7.  annoying and kind of creepy.  but i kept him alive for about 5 years on a diet that i figured out, and it did not revolve around prescription foods.  yes, we fed him the iams rx canned food for a few months, but as i learned more i changed what we fed them.  for the last two or three years of his life, he did not eat any rx food.

meanwhile, piglet has had good or premium quality food from the age of 1.  i have always tried to do the best by her.  and she developed kidney failure about two years younger than taylor did.  and her kidney failure is more progressed than his.  based on the numbers i'm seeing and some comparative googling, she's lost like 80% of her kidney function.  taylor's numbers were never this high.  and we got them lower over time by adjusting his diet.  plus let's add in the whole blood and pus in the urine. could that be a raging kidney infection?  sure.  could it be a thousand other things like cancer (that's how we discovered nibbler had lymphoma - blood and pus in the urine)?

and of course, now piglet's tooth has to stay put.  no idea what it actually is - the vet won't say it's feline odontoclastic resorption, but also mentioned that it looked like it could be something worse and wanted to biopsy it.  piglet is still hungry and purry and snuggles with me a bit - but she seems lethargic.  her breath is horrible - worse than normal cat breath.  and it's not like i don't think piglet is worth spending money, but i think there's a limit.  especially now that i know she's in kidney failure.  is it worth extracting the tooth for her comfort?  of course.  is it worth doing a biopsy on the gum to see if it's cancer or something?  maybe not.  it's a couple hundred dollars and it doesn't fucking matter - she. is. in. kidney. failure.  taking out the tooth isn't going to fix this.

there is no cure for this, only treatment.  only ways to try and help her kidneys function as best as possible for as long as possible.  this could easily include subq fluids at home.  how long is piglet going to like that?  how are we supposed to know when enough is enough?  it's so hard.  i don't want to seem like one of those people who just randomly puts cats to sleep because they cost too much - far from it.  i am one of those people who randomly puts animals to sleep when their quality of life declines to a point.  i called around to numerous vets when we were moving to florida to put a dwarf hamster with a tumor down.  the stress of the drive alone would have been enough to give a dwarf hamster a heart attack (literally, not figuratively).  i finally found one who was willing to try since there's no like vet-approved amount of sleepytime drug to put a dwarf hamster down.

cats are notorious for not letting people know things.  like when they hurt.  taylor could have been in pain for days, weeks even, before the day he went downhill quickly.  cats don't just purr when they're happy - they purr when they're in pain to comfort themselves.

i have this love/hate relationship with the web.  it helped me learn about feline kidney failure and helped me find new things to try.  it helped me discover feline herpes and enabled me to work with my vet at the time to treat it.  but it also shows me a list of things that say 'your cat is sicker than you think'.  piglet has numerous signs that put her at last stage 3 or possibly stage 4 kidney failure.  most vets recommend euthanizing cats in stage 4.  can piglet afford to wait a month on this food without subq fluids to see if her numbers stabilize?  how much more aggressive should we be?  so many questions with no good answers.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

feline chronic kidney whatever

some people call it 'kidney failure'.  some 'kidney disease'.  the practical upshot of all of it is that piglet's kidneys are not functioning as the cat goddess intended.

the cat goddess is probably bastet.  she's probably in charge of all cat-related things.

piglet has had a tooth issue for a few weeks now.  when we took her to the vet about a month ago, it looked like her tooth had been chipped.  there was a spot with no enamel and the dentin was exposed.  it seemed painful to her.  we put her on a round of antibiotics and the vet said the tooth may die and have to be extracted.  so i kept an eye on the tooth.  it's had a bit of a growth on it, like the gum is growing over it, and it comes and goes.  but it hadn't been looking like it was dying or that it was bothering her that much.  i was considering finding a vet dental specialist.

a few days ago, piglet started getting a bit lethargic.  her tooth had no change, she was still eating and peeing and pooping, she was still purring and snuggling and playing as normal, but she just seemed a bit run down.  i decided we needed to take the tooth out now because it seemed to be bothering her.  the vet wanted to take a look at it first and since it's a far drive, we decided to bring her in just before appointments started to ensure removing it was the best thing, then she could stay there and have the procedure or i could take her home if we decided against it.

i brought her in.  three of the four vets were in house yesterday; as a family, we've been dealing with the two oldest ones since the early '90s and i trust them both - and they both agreed the tooth needed to come out.  they said they'd take blood to make sure everything was good to go, take out the tooth, biopsy the growth thingy near the gum just in case, and handed me a RIDICULOUS estimate that made me cringe.  but it's my baby.

about an hour after i got home, one of the older vets called about piglet's blood work.  her kidneys were not functioning well.  her levels were, well, bad.  like two to three times higher than the high end of 'normal'.  i asked the vet if we'd call this early stage kidney failure and she said no, it's worse than that.  we kept our oldest cat taylor alive in early stage kidney failure for over five years with diet.  this would be like late stage three kidney failure; piglet's kidneys have probably lost about 80% of their function.

the tooth has to stay in for now.  we got a bit of info this morning about her urine - it's filled with blood and pus, but that *could* mean that she just has a really bad infection.  maybe a bit of a diet tweak and some antibiotics can fix this.  could it be related to the tooth?  could she have cancer?  could she be dying?  i try not to think about it, but i think it's something i have to think about.  i mean, let's get real - how much do i want to put piglet through?  our rottie nibbler was peeing blood and that turned out to be lymphoma.  with diet and subcutaneous fluids, we could probably keep piglet's kidneys functioning at or around 20% for at least a year or two.  maybe longer.  she's only nine and a half.

but she has other issues.  piglet has herpes, feline calcivirus.  she already has a kind of shitty immune system.  she hates getting medication.  she'll probably hate subq fluids if we end up having to do that at home.  this is treatable, yes, but not curable.  i love piglet, and i'll do what i can until she's no longer comfortable - the same we did with nibbler, the same i did with taylor, the same i'll do with any animal who trusts me to take care of them.

then i think about the supposedly positive diet changes i made for them - raw food and grain free.  samantha and jake seem to be doing well.  jake even lost weight and is a healthy weight now.  but now piglet is in kidney failure.  it's like, what did i do?  we fed taylor bullshit food for the first 11 years of his life (i was not in charge of that) and he went into kidney failure at age 11.  better food choices kept his kidneys functioning well enough for years.  i feed piglet the best food i can find for her as i learn more - at first she was on purina, then it moved to iams, then it moved to wellness, now nature's variety and raw foods - and she goes into kidney failure before age 10.  i know it's not my fault, i know it.  i know it happens, it's really pretty common in cats.  but what do i do?  what am i supposed to do?

i read all the ingredients and think about what they'd eat in the wild.  obviously we're not recreating that very well as humans.  feeding crap diets of kibble and low quality canned gives cats diabetes and makes them obese.  jake seems to gain weight on foods full of grains.  but grain free diets will be too protein rich for piglet.  the special kidney diets are filled with the type of crap i no longer wanted to feed my cats, but now it might be the best option for piglet.  i feel like no matter what i do, it's not good enough for my cats.

so here i am, again trying to determine a diet that will be best for all my cats.  trying to figure out where the money is coming from for all these tests and procedures and shit.  trying to decide what is the best course of action; how much we're willing to put piglet through; what we're willing to treat without the option of curing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ups and downs

it's been an interesting few weeks.

my rheumatoid disease activity has been up.  pain levels are increasing.  drugs are not helping.  about two weeks ago i was trying not to hate my life.  i've started being more creative - cross stitching and cooking as much as i can.  or as much as i feel like.  it keeps snowing.  and it's cold.

ah, february.  it's been a month of ups and downs.

next week i go the the rheumatologist again.  she's probably going to discontinue my enbrel and start the process to get me on humira.  it's the same kind of fucking ridiculous drug with a disgusting laundry list of possible side effects: serious infections, nervous system problems, blood problems, heart failure, immune system reactions, liver problems.  oh, and of course a heightened risk of cancer, including a rare kind of lymphoma.

maybe this one will help.

i finally went through all the hoops to get a temporary handicapped parking permit.  i hate that i have it, but it really helps with the walking.  if i go to the mall or try to go shopping, 30 minutes is my limit.  it makes it hard to go shopping other than food shopping.  and at school it will help a lot - the student parking lot is faaaar from the buildings.  i also bought a cane that i still won't use.  it's leopard print, obvs.

still, everything hurts.  my elbows still seem to be the only main joints not involved.  my very low spine hurts.  my hips.  my shoulders.  my knees.  and of course, my wrists, fingers, ankles, and toes.  my toes have been horrible this week.  my left heel is a problem as well.

interning is going so well.  i have three of my own groups - one is every other week and is a health & nutrition group.  i have an orientation group once a week for new clients and an opioid recovery group once a week.  and i'm still co-leading the women's group once a week.  that's my favorite - i'm really learning a lot by leading it with a more seasoned counselor.

and i did my first mostly solo assessment.  i took the lead with the entire thing and wrote up all the notes and filled out all the online stuff about it to be reviewed by the counselor who sat with me.  she didn't interject much at all but gave me good guidance.

then today my supervisor/mentor spent a solid ten minutes gushing over how great i am.  she kept talking about how big of a help i've been with her workload, and how much she wants me to be able to have my own caseload.  she told me they're pushing her to hire a part time counselor who is fully credentialed, which i won't be for at least another two years - i'll have a trainee certification in june and will have to do 2000+ hours of work that is reviewed by other qualified health professionals.  but she's keeping me in the loop on that so i can prepare to present myself as an integral part of the team when my internship is over and hopefully get some kind of job there.  i want to stay where i am.  i love the other counselors, i love the clients, the location isn't horrible - not too far - i mean, come on.  and i learned here - i know how to do everything the way THEY want people to do things.  i'm hopeful and confident, but i don't want to be cocky about it.

and piglet has a tooth injury.  i don't know how much i went into it already - if at all - but she'll most likely have to have one of her canines removed this friday.  she's almost 10 but she still feels too young for this to happen to.  i'm just hoping it's not one of the tooth things that cats get that will end up affecting like all of her teeth.  we'll see.

so february ends and we enter march.  we still have snow, my birthday is coming up, and spring will hopefully spring sooner rather than later.  the clocks go ahead this weekend so it will be lighter later at night.  hopefully i'll keep practicing positivity and be a happy camper too!