Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The End of 2008

Well, the holiday season is almost over, and so, too, is 2008. Can't say that I am sorry to see the end of this year, and hope that 2009 is a less-eventful year in medical terms.

We enjoyed the visit with my parents and were very sorry to see them leave on Sunday - however, they were very happy to be getting back to Arizona where there is no threat of a white new year! They are back to Geo-caching and volks walking; all while wearing shorts and t-shirts!

We, on the other hand, are bundled in our parkas bracing for yet more snow. Joy. Going to have a quiet New Year's Eve with our neighbors, Wolfgang and Janet. They live just across the street, so no driving for anyone and we can just totter across the street when we're done. We'll bring a bottle of something red, from the Willamette Valley, of course, to toast the end of 2008 and a better 2009.

To all who follow this, I wish you a happy, healthy, tumour-free New Year! (Hey, I know, it sounds weird, but most of you who read this can relate!)

Peace to all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mom and Dad Arrive

So, after surviving the full day of travel from Phx to Newark, delayed further by bad weather here in NJ in the morning, Mom and Dad finally arrived only about an hour behind schedule. We got their bags, loaded them into the car, blasted the heater and headed the hour-plus home to the estate.

Where we opened the door from the garage into the kitchen to discover brown powdery stuff strewn from one end of the kitchen to the other. I should mention that our beautiful Christmas tree is positioned between the kitchen and living room - and when we leave, we gate Carrie into the kitchen, but with access to the tree. Where one of the packages contained a nice tin of hot chocolate mix that Kura had left last weekend - just waiting to be opened on Christmas morning --- or while we were away, whichever occurred first.

So within minutes of arriving home, mom and dad and I were all on our hands and knees scrubbing up the chocolate powder and gunk. Welcome to New Jersey!

As if that wasn't enough, before we came down this morning (and, coincidentally, before we disarmed the burglar alarm) Mom decided to take Carrie out for her morning constitutional - thereby setting off the alarm (which I didn't hear because I was in the bathroom which is a long way from the alarm)... Both parents ended up outside, locked out of the house, with the dog, and with the alarm blaring at full volume. Did I mention that it was only about 12 degrees out? Did I say - Welcome to New Jersey!!

We hope that the rest of mom and dad's stay with us is uneventful. Does anyone want a collie, slightly used???

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, sNOw!!

New experience! Walking in the snow - oh s(NO)w!!

After chatting with my parents and telling them about the cold weather and snow that is awaiting them when they arrive this Sunday from Phoenix, I decided to take the trusty collie for a quick walk in the yard. So far, so good.

Well, as soon as I stepped out on the back porch and realized that we had about 5 inches of fresh powdery snow (with more falling by the second) I decided I should walk down the hill to the shed to liberate our snow shovel. Ha.

Remember when you were a kid and you'd run really fast down a hill and thrill to the sensation that you might not be able to stop? Well, not quite as thrilling as an adult. I carefully walked (okay, tottered) down the hill feeling with each step as if I was toppling right over. I got about halfways down the hill and then wondered how getting back up would go - too late, I was committed. Well, suffice it to say that I made it both up and down - but walking on uneven ground in the snow is WAY worse than walking at night! Wow - never expected that at all. I used the shovel as a walking stick on the way back.

Somehow, I think my mom intuited this since her parting words as we rang off were something to the effect of me being careful in the snow. Mom always knows best. Never doubt it.

So, that's my funny for the day. I may go back out when Willie gets home just to experience the wonky head in safety!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just in Time for Christmas

My little twin is definitely being beaten into submission by the antibiotics - thank goodness! Still can't get my mouth open all the way, but am doing fine with small bites and flat foods.

The weekend was great - we decided not to chop down the tree this year. I realized that tromping though muddy, bumpy terrain in search of the tree was about as close to a guarantee of falling as I could get, so opted for a the local tree-lot instead. Good move, as my balance has been terrible for the last few weeks - much worse than usual. I could just see myself laying in the mud on my back - rather like a beetle with arms and legs flailing in the air. And, of course, my friend Peggy would have been right there with her camera. No on needs that!

So, the tree was bagged and home we came to sip on mulled wine while hanging the lights and ornaments. As you can see, the tree came out beautiful! Phoebe has taken up residence beneath it, our little calico gift. Of course, she also likes to shred paper, so any gifts under the tree are fair-game to her. Willie rotisseried two chickens wich were the perfect accompaniment for the Chilean cabernet, which was splendid!

For those wanting to know, TMJD is Temporo-Mandibular Joint Disorder. And, yes, the consensus is that I have it. It would cause the pain in my jaw joint as well as the neck and right-side head pain (running up through my temple). It's really not that easy to treat, but the dental nite guard (which I am now scheduled to get Thursday morning) may help. Also, my ENT suggested that chiropractic may help. So, once I get the clearance from Dr. Roland, who I see on Monday, I'll make an appointment with a bone cruncher (aka chiropractor). Meanwhile, Advil helps the constant ache as do warm compresses. I've been in a low level of pain since surgery, so I am kind of used to it. Which doesn't mean I would not like to see it gone for good! Well, at least I have a plan, which always makes me feel better.

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of my girl friends this weekend about the whole issue of my face and not feeling sometimes like anyone wanted to acknowledge it. It was a good conversation and I also think it helped them to understand better how I feel and what I need. Very cathartic. I must say that I still go through big emotional ups and downs. Some days I feel very optimistic and other days I feel lower than low. This too shall pass, though, I am sure.

Well, off to make some money...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ah, Relief in Sight

Ah, the twin is on the run. It is now down to a mere pea-size and the swelling in my jaw is gone. I can also open my jaw slightly more than a half inch now, which still doesn't get me a chair at the diner, but it's something...

Saw the wonderful Dr. Galleos this morning and he confirmed that it is an abscess of one of my lymph nodes, need to stay on antibiotics another week, warm compresses, etc. He thinks the jaw issue is part of the abscess and should go away in the next week. He also leans towards me having TMJ and suggests seeing a chiropractor after I get my nite guard (assuming I can ever open my jaw enough to get the damned thing in there!)

This is the first time I've seen Dr. Galleos since that fateful day in early March when he told me I had an acoustic neuroma, so he was quite interested to hear how I was doing. He immediately noticed my facial issues, but went on to comment that I was in much better shape at this point than he would have expected. He was very encouraging. I'll see him in a few months for my annual hearing test.

So after the doctor, I ran to the grocery store to get some food and had a first. The girl who was checking me out said - "I hope you don't mind me asking, but did you have a stroke or something? Your face looks different." She's been at this grocery store for years and has obviously seen me before. I can't begin to describe the feeling I got when she asked me this - I could have jumped over the counter and hugged her! You see, I know I don't look quite right and I so often wish people would just ask rather than wonder - only no one ever asks because they don't want to be rude. And, of course, all my friends tell me I look great, which is nice to hear but is more a reflection of love than reality. And, I look at myself in the mirror so often that I don't know what I see anymore. Anyway, she was so kind and she now owns a special place in my heart. Which probably doesn't make a lot of sense to most people...

I'm on Advil today which seems to working so far. That means, let there be WINE tomorrow!! Lorenzo, we're opening a bottle of Chilean Cabernet that we bought 5 years ago and have been cellaring. We bought six bottles and have been anxious to try one now that it's been adequately aged. I'll let you all know how it is! Oh, and BTW, Lorenzo - I'll have you know that my mom reads my blog so that she can read your comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Acrylic Head

Lorenzo, I think you may be on to something! I could have a body-double for my head!! Excelent idea. And, I think I may only need one or two more scans to be ready. WooHoo!

Back to Dr. C today and he was happy to note that the size of my twin (the one growing under my jaw) is slightly smaller than it was on Monday. It is now about the size of a small grape, rather than a large one. And, I am quite happy to note that it is much less painful. In fact, I went for a good part of the day with a very tolerable level of pain - without meds! I did have to abandon ship and resort to meds by mid afternoon, but compared to the last 4 or 5 days, that's a quantum leap in the right direction.

I am going to see my ENT on Friday (the one who initially diagnosed my acoustic neuroma, bless that man) as Dr. C wants him to look at the scans and see if he can tell what is causing my jaw to open only a fraction of an inch. He also faxed the radioly report to both brain docs. Jeez, I feel like a science project.

Meanwhile it warmed up to nearly 60 F today, but poured rain most of the day. Mixed blessings.

Well, off to puree some soup and make a fruit smoothie. Yum. Did I mention that I am tired of food that can be consumed through a straw???

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Abscess, Neuralgia, what else?

Monday morning (was it really only yesterday) I called my PC and made an appointment to see him in the morning because the lump under my jaw wasn't any better and the pain had only gotten worse over the weekend. He suspected some sort of abscess (not glands or ducts or anything so mundane) so sent me off to the hospital for some scans (because I apparently haven't had just the right one yet!) and within an hour called me say that I do, indeed, have some sort of abscess in my jaw. Oh joy.

He upped the pain meds, gave me two shots (one for pain, one steroid) and started me on a new run of antibiotics. And, I see him again tomorrow morning. When I saw him yesterday, he said that he doesn't think the other pain is TMJ, so will discuss that further with him tomorrow.

At this point, I'm thinking of just having my head amputated - seems easier. Perhaps a head transplant??

Stay tuned for more breaking news...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday in Acoustic Neuroma, TMJ, Salvitory Land

Wow, that's a mouth full! Assuming one can get one's mouth open, that is.

The weekend has consisted primarily of me being doped up and napping, with either an ice pack or heat pack pressed to my face and neck. What a vision! Rocket discovered that moist heat is quite lovely for cats, too, and so we shared a nap on the heating pad today!

Tomorrow I will call the doctor re the big lump under my jaw. The lump is slightly more well-defined now, about the size of a hazelnut and hard and quite painful. I hope that this gives the doctor some clue as to how to proceed. I am scheduled for the dentist 5 pm on Tuesday, but since I can only get my jaw open about a half inch now, there's no way he's going to be able to fit the nite guard. Well, let's see what tomorrow brings ... Patience, Debbi, patience!!

Friday, December 5, 2008


Okay, I think TMJD is actually worse than a brain tumor. Or, maybe not. Anyway, I don't wish this on anyone. I am still on full doses of major pain and inflamation meds and can't go 4 hours without them because the pain literally brings me to my knees. I'm NOT having fun!!

Because the joy of face/neck/jaw pain wasn't enough, yesterday morning I noticed that there was a pretty significant amount of swelling under my right jaw, and it was hurting to swallow. Off to my primary doc's office today where they told me they think I have either an infected lymph node or salavorty gland infection. So, now I am on antibiotics once a day for the next 5 days and strict orders to call the doctor first thing Monday morning if I don't see a noticeable improvement.

Oh, and I can only open my mouth about an 3/4 of an inch now - tried to eat a banana a little while ago and had to cut it into thin slits to fit in my mouth. I'm grumpy.

I think I am getting my whole life's worth of medical issues out of the way in one year - which in some respects is a relief. And, just think, only 26 days until the end of the year...

I've decorated the house for the holidays (except the tree which we'll cut next weekend) and it is looking quite festive if I do say so myself. Of course, it's kind of hard to tell in my drug-induced haze...

Since I can't talk much, I've started writing some articles and submitted one today to ezine articles - it's on procrastination, which I know a lot about...

Hope everyone reading this has a great weekend. I'll be napping...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Oh the Pain...

Okay, well first, let's talk about the weekend. Thanksgiving was a success with the requisite amount of noise and food. Aunt Rose came through with the pastries from the Italian bakery in Queens which made everyone smile even more. What's not to love about a fresh canolli!?

Willie and I left Friday morning and had a splendid weekend at the Westbrook B & B in Westbrook, CT. Perfect weather Friday and Saturday so we did some wandering along the shore and at Old Mystic Seaport. Also managed to eat a lot of oysters and clams and some great fresh seafood. Bliss! Drive home on Sunday started with freezing rain, so it was fairly long and not much fun.

And, with bad weather comes more facial pain for moi. Sunday night was pretty bad and then Monday it reached an unbearable level. The worst pain I've ever experienced - radiating in both upper and lower jaw, cheek, temple and down my neck - all on the right side only. At one point I was curled up in a ball trying to breath my way through the pain.

I called my dentist to see if I could get in to see him, wanting to rule out anything like a bad tooth (even though I just had them all checked two months ago.) Contacted Dr. Roland this morning who asked that I have the dentist check for TMJ. Saw Dr. Ward, the dentist this morning and he says my symptoms fit either TMJ or Trigeminal Neuralgia (fancy word for nerve pain - duh!) We're going to hope for TMJ and start with the least invasive treatments (it's not curable, neither is TN).

So, I have been fitted for a new bite guard which should be here in a week. To help with the pain, I am on a prescription anti-inflammatory with a narcotic pain killer. I am supposed to limit talking and chewing anything tough or chewy - in other words, rest the jaw as much as possible. It this is TMJ, I should see some relief within a week or so of the new bite plate. Next steps are physical therapy and possibly surgery. One step at a time. Of course, this was all triggered by the surgery, so the Acoustic Neuroma is truly the gift that keeps giving.

At least I have a diagnosis in sight, so I can now become an expert on TMJ (with a minor in Trigemenal Neuralgia, just in case!) I see Dr. Roland again on the 22nd, which is good timing in terms of knowing whether this is TMJ.

Good grief, does this ever get any easier???!!! Well, looking on the bright side, it's the holiday season which is my most favorite time of year!