Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cat Hell - Parte Due (Part Two)

Yep, just when you thought it might be safe...

I mentioned in my last post that Rocket was having an issue - basically, he had sores on his little furry face and was scratching himself like crazy. The end-up being that the sores wouldn't heal. Yuck. So, the traveling vet showed up, trusty assistant in tow, early last evening. In preparation for the "big event" I had Willie take Rock-man into our bathroom and get him settled (ha!)

When the vet arrived, I took her upstairs, opened the bathroom door and basically shoved she and her assistant in, then slammed the door. I should mention that I stayed out in the sitting room, leaving Willie to deal with the ensuing event on his own. Now, I should also mention that the minute Phoebe got a whiff of the vet, she flew out of the bedroom, fast and low, and went into hiding under the coffee table. She clearly remembers the adventure of a few weeks ago!

Back to Rocket - apparently he was ensconced on top of the dryer (we have a laundry room right off the master bath) and assumed the crouching position immediately. The vet took a peek at the wounds, although from a safe distance. The entire time, Rocket was growling in a deep baritone. Deducing that a cortisone shot was just the thing that was needed, the vet unsheathed the needle, all to the low rumble of Rocket growling. She apparently created a small diversion, then jammed the needle in. In response, Rocket took a swift whack at her with all claws unsheathed. Amazingly, the vet moved even faster, thereby avoiding severing a limb. Willie said that the speed of both the cat and the vet was nothing short of amazing - a veritable blur of motion!

By this time, Rocket was flat on top of the dryer, trying to make his 12-pound self melt into the dryer. All the while emitting a menacing growl. We decided that the best thing to do at that point was go out to dinner and let everyone in the house calm down. Happily, things seem to be back to normal today. Until the next "event" ...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The SSD Twirl

This falls under category of funny single-side deafness (SSD) moments.

The Dark Lord (Rocket, the black cat) has developed what we suspect is dermatitis which started looking very bad yesterday (this isn't the funny part). I decided that I needed to call the vet and leave am message to see if we can get her over here to treat him (still not funny, hang in there). So, went to grab my cell phone. Hm, not in its usual place. So, I started searching for it. Dad (who is still here freezing his butt off and wishing he were back in AZ) suggested that he use HIS cell phone to call me - we could then trace the sound of my phone ringing and locate the phone. Sounds good!

So, he proceeded to call me ... and my phone proceeded to ring. Now, at this point, I should mention that my dad is also SSD. And, one of the challenges of being deaf on one side is that you really can't determine what direction a noise is coming from. So, there we are, both in the kitchen, hearing my phone ringing at top volume. And we began twirling around. Both of us. And, then we realized how totally silly it was - two SSD people, neither with any ability what-so-ever to locate the direction of the noise. We both hit that realization at about the same moment - looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Footnote - we DID find the phone eventually.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas day - and we are having a white Christmas here in NJ. We've got a fire roaring (well, maybe just sighing) in the fireplace and are waiting for Willie's parents and sister to arrive. My mom and dad got here on Monday - direct from Phoenix, AZ. Yep, they left warm sunny weather and shorts to spend the holiday with us in freezing, white New Jersey.

We've got a ham in the oven and a bottle of wine on the table. Good food, family ... what more could anyone ask for?

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Need to Feed

So here's the deal ... I married into an Italian family 9 years ago. And, it has been a wonderful and enriching experience. However, one thing still puzzles me and that is the Need to Feed.

Whenever we go to my in-laws (or any other family member. friend or casual acquaintance) we MUST bring food. And, it almost doesn't even matter what the food is, just so long as it is edible. A box of grocery store cookies will qualify. Now, maybe I am an unsophisticated heathen, but in my family and circle of friends, you just show up! (And in my younger and poorer days, I would show up with laundry.) And this whole food-giving thing extends to visits of any duration - even a quick stop for coffee requires some sort of food.

And it works in reverse, too. Whenever my in-laws come over for dinner or a visit, my mother-in-law has to bring something to eat. And, if I tell her that she can just show up, that the real gift is spending time, it causes all sorts of stress and anxiety. It is just unthinkable to show up empty handed!

It complicates the whole visiting thing - you can't just swing by to say hello. First you have to find someplace that sells food so that you can arrive bearing food. And, the food must be served during the visit! Don't even think about saving it for "later!!"

This has all caused me to question my own visiting protocol. Are my friends and I complete losers because we visit without food? Have we been transgressing some unspoken "food rule" all these years? OMG, are other people secretly saying "oh, look at that poor, clueless woman - showing up without food?" Crap.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cat Hell

Life here on Tallyho Lane is rarely ever dull. Take this week, for example... we had an appointment yesterday for a brand new vet. Not just any vet, either - this one makes House Calls!! Now you might wonder why that's important? Briefly, Rocket (our black cat) is a very, very bad patient. He is certain that the vet is out to kill him, and determined not to go down without taking someone out with him. The last time we had him at the vet, we had him sedated and he STILL roused himself to attack the vet and the technician. All of which is accompanied by the most hair-raising screaming and snarling that you've ever heard. So, the long and short of this is that the veterinary facility that we take the animals to suggested that we find another option for Rock-man. The big red Paw sticker on his file is probably an indicator.

What further complicates things is that when we take Phoebe, our younger cat, to the vet, she comes back smelling like something scary and Rocket immediately launches a Jihad which sometimes last for days. Complete with hissing, screaming, snarling, etc. All night long.

So, I found a woman here in the county who has a veterinary house call practice. Excellent! Made an appointment to get both cats inspected and vaccinated. As the day approached, I was filled with trepidation.

Well, the day finally arrived and the vet showed up with her technician in tow. Rocket was hanging around downstairs, so we introduced everyone. He was polite but reserved - definitely withholding judgment. The vet suggested that the "deed" was best done in a bathroom (thereby eliminating the opportunity for the cat to run away and hide.) We decided to get Rocket first, so into the master bathroom we all went. Then, all three of us got down on the floor with Rocket - yes, three grown women all huddled on the floor with one 12 pound black cat. There was lots of petting and scratching (the cat, not us) while she inspected eyes, ears, teeth - all fine. Then, she uncapped the first syringe... and the war began. Rocket screamed and leaped off the floor - knocking the needle right out of the vets hands - but not before it gashed her on the way by. We corralled Rock again (after wrapping the vet's bleeding hand) and tried covering him with a towel. The tech basically got him in a full-nelson against the bathroom door, covered with a towel (the cat, not the vet.) Rocket, knowing that death was close at hand, put up the fight of his life. The screaming was the kind of noise that makes all the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The vet, fortunately, was able to lift a corner of the towel and jab the cat. Got both vaccines done before he escaped to the corner of the bathroom counter, hissing and growling. We quietly left the bathroom.

Phoebe, of course, was outside the bathroom and heard the entire thing. She took one look at the three of us and took off. I was finally able to lure her within reach with treats, snatched her up and headed to our small half-bath downstairs. The three of us - plus the cat - crammed in the tiny bathroom. Before we could get the door closed, Phoebe escaped. More chasing and begging. Finally got ALL of us back into the bathroom where things proceeded without a hitch. Phoebe, fortunately, is less concerned with maiming and more concerned with just getting away.

We let Phoebe loose and she headed for the bedroom. When I went up to check (and to make sure Rocket was not going to attack Phoebe), I found them both as far under the bed as they could go, side by side, not budging. Two little faces looking back at me as if to say ... "how could you??"

As is the way with animals, within an hour, all was forgotten and everyone was in good spirits. And, best of all - the vet agreed to come back next year and do it all over again!!!

Gosh, I can hardly wait to see what happens next...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facial Retraining - Next Phase

So, for the last few months, I've been showing more and more signs of synkinesis. It started with the chin dimple - that actually started in the summer. Now, my right eye is trying to close when I smile. And, if I blink my right eye (like a wink), that side of my mouth tries to pull up. I know where this is all leading, of course. And, I am determined to get ahead of it.

So, we will be traveling to Wisconsin in February (I know, I know - Wisconsin -winter - I get it!) to spend 2 1/2 days with Jackie Diels. For the uninitiated, she is considered to be the leading facial retraining expert in the US, if not the world. She has trained many of the top NMFRs and still sees patients herself. Willie talked to her on the phone last week, and she feels certain she can help. We attended a workshop she conducted at the Acoustic Neuroma Assn Symposium this past August in Chicago and were very impressed with what she said, and what she's been able to do. So, I am optimistic that with some hard work, I will be able to keep the synkinesis at bay and even improve it.

Of course, there is no "cure" for synkinesis. It will require a lifetime of facial exercises, and possibly botox injections (although hopefully NOT). For anyone reading this who isn't entirely certain what the heck synkinesis is - in simple terms, it means that the facial nerves in my face "mis-connected" as they were healing and now my face has what is euphemistically called "inappropriate movements." Left untreated, they can and usually do get worse. With treatment, I can literally retrain the muscles to move appropriately, thereby smacking those pesky, disobedient facial nerves.

To tell the truth, I've been trying to ignore this for awhile - foolishly hoping that the problem would miraculously disappear. Thank goodness that Willie was having none of it, and took the initiative to call Jackie himself. (Thank you, honey!)

As we get closer, I'll post some pictures of my face making it's little grimaces. Then, I'll post some more pictures after I get back from Wisconsin so you can see the difference (I'm optimistic). One more step in this journey. More fodder for the book that is percolating in the back of my mind.

I talked to another acoustic neuroma patient this afternoon - she's having surgery with Golfinos and Roland (my surgeons) on Jan 6, and is at that stage where she is very anxious. Boy, can I relate to that. We had a laugh about the obsessive need to micromanage every single detail. Actually, she sounds a lot like I did when I was in the final month. We had a good talk and it was a good reminder to me about how far I've come.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Stand Corrected...

Well, I just got an email from the ANA BOD saying that they've had more applications than ever for the 2010 board and need a few more weeks to review and make a final decision. The good news is that they will have a talented pool of people to draw from and I am sure they will pick the best people. The bad news is that it may not be me! :( Ah well, wait and see. I feel pretty optimistic about it, though.

This weekend is the annual gathering of my closest group of friends for tree trimming, glu-wein drinking, and general festivities. We are expecting a little snow today - maybe an inch or two, so that will lend to the air of holiday festivity. Good times!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving Back

Like most people, over the years, I've wanted to find a cause that inspires me - some way in which I can give something back. I've considered and rejected a number of organizations/causes - some because they don't inspire me and others because they really don't do as much good as I'd like. But, in the last year and a half, I've found something that inspires me.

When I was first diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, I got online and started reading all I could find on this thing in my head. And, one of the very first sights I found was the Acoustic Neuroma Assoication website (yea, there's an actual association for our specific brain tumor!) Willie posted the first question (bravely) on their patient forum and almost immediately, people responded. This led to us having a phone conversation with a patient who'd has surgery the year before. His generosity in spending time to talk to us and sharing his story still touches me very deeply.

I became a "regular" on the ANA forum and I met some really wonderful people along the way (hey, Lorenzo and Kay!). I felt like I had a whole community of friends who understood what I was going through, who weren't bored or annoyed with my millions of questions, my fears, my concerns. And, I have tried to give that same support and friendship to others who find their way to the forum - most dazed, scared, confused.

Fast forward - several months ago, I decided (with lots of support and encouragement from Willie) that I would apply for a seat on the Board of Directors of the ANA. And, this morning, I received word that they want me! I've finally found my cause. I am elated! Yes, it's a time commitment, but when I think about all that I have gotten from this group - well, wow. I am honored to be able to be a part of it.

This brain tumor adventure has forever changed my life; it has a way of doing that for most of those affected by it. But, hopefully I can use my experience in a positive way, to help other people.