Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I distinctly recall saying to the dog and cat during my first attack (who were pacing through the house with me, trying to figure out where we were going and what we were doing), "If this is what childbirth feels like there's no &#*$(@^% way I'm having any #*($@()^ kids." Note that we have no children.
That first time it happened, seven or eight years ago, J was pretty freaked out and wanted to go to the emergency room. But I'm not so much for emergency rooms or doctors - although I'll be the first in line to nag at anybody else I care about for having the same attitude. Do as I say, not as I do. We called Mom - the usual medical question/emergency protocol for us - and she said go to the emergency room. So I didn't. Of course. I bargained with J (stupid, I know) and told him that if it hadn't gone away by the time he had to get up for work (5:30) I'd go to the ER. It'd finally gone away by then, so I "won". Yay for me!
However, he and Mom did convince me to call my doctor the next day and make an appt. I did and when I told him about my painful attack the night before he thought it could be a few different things, but was most likely gallstones. He sent me to have an ultrasound and they couldn't find anything. So he told me that if it happened again, he needed me to go to the ER - he can't do much to diagnose me unless I'm in the midst of an episode. So that was that - wasted a ton of money on tests and dr's appt for nothing.
Honestly, I'd almost completely forgotten about that attack until last year. When it happened again. Only this time we were at Kentucky Lake with a nice long drive between me and the nearest ER - and much of that drive was gravel or two lane country road. And the last thing I wanted to do, while cursing and crying and writhing in pain, was hop in a big bouncy diesel truck and bounce and wind my way for an hour to the nearest ER. So again, I ignored Mom and J and just toughed it out. My general medical plan is this: ignore it and it'll go away - pretend it doesn't exist and it doesn't!
A year later it happened again. Same pain, same story, same stubborn refusal to go the ER. Except now it's because I'm pretty sure there really is a problem and I just don't want to deal with it. My medical plan wasn't working.
I had a follow up appointment two days later with a doctor who also happens to be a surgeon for a completely different matter and at the end of the appointment he asked if I had any other questions and how I was doing otherwise. I told him about the attack two days prior, and the two attacks before that one. I was purposefully casual about it and told him what my PCP had said about not being able to diagnose unless I was in the midst of an attack and... "No," he interrupted me. "That's the difference between a surgeon and your PCP. Go get an ultrasound immediately and have them send me the results. Either way we're taking your gallbladder out."
Hello? Rude much? No "we" aren't! I was not happy with his response. And he wasn't much happier with mine. I told him that if they found gallstones in this ultrasound, we could discuss surgery. But if they don't - we won't even discuss it. "Heather," he explains, clearly trying to be patient with me, "1 out of 10 people end up with gallbladder disease. And 10 out of 10 people don't need their gallbladder. Left untreated it really can create much worse issues than the pain - or kill you. It needs to come out."
"Nuh-uh." I am a champion debater. No arguing that point, now is there?
It didn't matter. Two days later the lady that did my ultrasound said with surprise, "Wow! Those are huge!" as soon as she located my gallbladder. She showed me the ultrasound and even to my completely untrained eye it was pretty obvious. I had huge stones. And not in the way I'd always meant when I said I have huge stones.
But I wasn't giving in. A couple of days later at my follow-up appt with my doctor to review my results, I felt like we needed to discuss other options. Isn't there a medication we can try? Medical or pharmaceutical trials I can participate in? A laser that can obliterate them without surgery? Honestly - he looked at me like I was from another planet.
"Heather," he starts, trying to patient once again. "This is the most common surgery performed in the United Sates. I have done thousands of them. It has a 100% cure rate. You will be fine." He tells me it's laproscopic, I'll recover quickly, yadda, yadda, yadda.
But seriously - can't we just TRY a prescription, or drug trials, or lasers? Now he's irritated again. "There are no medications, no drug trials, no lasers. Why would there be? There's a solution. It works and it's simple," he tells me.
He wants to operate immediately - in two days. I tell him I'm busy. Maybe in late November... He totally wants to yell at me now, I can tell. He explains that I need to do it before my common bile duct gets blocked and I end up having to have emergency surgery for it. He talks me into scheduling the surgery for the end of July - three weeks from our discussion.
As I walk out of his office, I'm not sure how he won. I can't remember how he talked me into the surgery AND into doing it so soon. I'm going to call and reschedule. The nurse won't argue with me - she'll just reschedule it for me. The customer's always right, you know.
That very night I had another attack. This really may have been God's version of slapping me upside the head.
So I had my gallbladder removed on Friday, July 31. I asked to have my gallstones after the surgery and the surgical nurse told me I couldn't have them because they have to be sent to pathology. They'd already given me something (not sure what, this was JUST before surgery), so I was little pushier than usualy... so I argued with her that it was MY gallbladder and MY gallstones and they were coming out of MY body so I can do whatever I want with them! She argued a little bit and then told me she'd take a picture if i wanted. So that satisfied me. The picture is below (GROSS... I know) - the gallbladder is at the bottom, of course. The two yellow things are the stones and I have no idea what the other thing is.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So I said I'd fill you all in on I'd been up to for the last six months or so since I stopped blogging. In January I did two exciting things - I had LASiK surgery and we spent a week on the Big Island in Hawaii. First things first - LASiK...
I’ve wanted to have LASiK surgery for years and just kept putting it off or getting cold feet. So I finally bit the bullet and had it done in early January. Absolutely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I went first to Mulqueeney and even had my surgery scheduled when they called and said they’d decided I wasn’t a candidate after all and suggested I come in so they could sell me on toric contact lenses (used them previously, hated them, was very angry).
In the end, I had it done through Pepose Vision Institute – they’re a little more expensive, but they’re also the gold standard in the Midwest and this wasn’t something I wanted to bargain hunt. Anyway – and here’s the big kicker – when I went in for my pre-op appt and they did all the eye tests (they test your vision three different ways) they found that I was far sighted. However, I’d been told I was NEAR sighted my entire life. I’d been wearing glasses to correct near sighted vision and astigmatism for twenty years. They explained that the reason I could see better when I put my glasses on was because they were correcting my astigmatism. I was blown away – they said this wasn’t at all uncommon either. There’s a long explanation and it makes sense and if you want to hear it, let me know – otherwise I’ll skip that part and just tell you that once they showed me what my vision would be like with my proper prescription I was amazed.
So anyway – I went in for the surgery on a Wednesday morning. The first thing they did was give me 10 mg of Valium. So thirty minutes later I was feeling pretty good. They did all of the tests again, just to make sure they match the original test and double-check everything. Then they took me in for the surgery. They told me everything they were doing and what I’d be experiencing… and good thing I was nice and stoney on the Valium because otherwise it would have freaked me out! When he cut the flap, everything goes black for a few seconds. Then he peels the flap back and you can only see light and dark. The laser itself was nothing – I wasn’t even sure if it was happening or not. Then suddenly it was over and they were helping me get up.
When I went in the next morning for my follow-up appt, I could read the smallest line on the chart. But the best part was that night – I was AMAZED at my night vision. I grabbed the phone and called J, and then my mom, to brag about how well I could suddenly see. The headlights coming toward me were just lights – no starbursts, no halos, nothing… just plain lights. If you have ever even considered doing it – do it. I couldn’t wear makeup for a week and I couldn’t swim for two weeks. I was back at work the day after surgery. Totally worth it. I also HIGHLY recommend Dr. Pepose. My vision is now 20/12.5 – which means that I can now see at 20 feet what a normal (20/20) person has to move up to 12.5 feet to see.
Second things second - HAWAII!!! WHOO-HOO!!!
Two years ago when J and I decided to buy a new house, we put a moratorium on all travel. We needed to put all of our money and free time into getting the old house ready to put on the market and getting a down-payment together. It sucked. J and I really enjoy travel and we take at least two decent vacations a year – plus a few three or four day weekend trips as well. So going without a vacation for a year and a half just sucked. So I told Jeremy that once we got the house sold, as long as we made enough off the sale, he better get my butt to a beach IMMEDIATELY. So we closed on Dec 23 and booked a Hawaiian vacation two weeks later.
The last week of January was cold and full of freezing rain and snow in St. Louis… but we were on the Big Island where it was 80 degrees and beautiful. We had an amazing trip and will most certainly be back. We saw whales, we toured a coffee plantation (of course), we went to a small town farmer’s market, had open air massages, saw the volcano erupting and lava flow, snorkeled, drank and ate until we thought we would burst… but the most unusual thing we did (and the highlight of the trip for J) was wild boar hunting. Yes, that’s right – we went wild boar hunting on the Big Island of Hawaii. And it was amazing. We both took a boar and by the way, my shot was from 350 yards away, so you can call me Sniper Heather now if you want... as a matter of fact, I may start insisting on it... We brought the meat home with us and it’s still in the freezer, we haven’t done anything with it. I’m a little afraid to use it because I don’t want to ruin it!
Here were are on our lanai. (J loves it when I take pictures of us like this, can't you tell?) We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and they were filming "My Antonio" with Antonio Sabato Jr while we were there - it's another VH1 romance reality show... J wanted to heckle the girls while they were filming their "confessionals" but I'm a big meanie and wouldn't let him.
Like I said we ate a lot, here's J enjoying a typical Hawaiian breakfast, in this awesome hole-in-the-wall diner we found in Waimea, Hawaiian Style Cafe. He had the Kauna Pork Omelette, and is again very happy to have his picture taken while eating. Heehee - ain't marriage grand? Anyway, it was delicious and we highly recommend it!
I'll post this picture from Captain Dan's website. We didn't get to see a full breach like this, so obviously we'll have to go back.
As many of you know, I have a serious Food Network addiction - so I insisted that we start the day with a trip to Charm City Cakes - home to Ace of Cakes, and Duff Goldman. I knew ahead of time that all of the windows would be blacked out and that I wouldn't meet anyone from the show and that it would be rude as hell to knock on the door, so I didn't. But I did make Jeremy take my picture in front of the place!
Then we crossed the street to have lunch at Dizzie Issies - a place that Duff and his friends have mentioned several times on the show as one of their favorite hangouts. It's literally across the street. It's one of those corner bars that typifies everything about a city... except that it no longer exists. It's under new management and is now called The Dizz. Apparently most of the employees remained and the menu is more or less the same, but it's been cleaned up and rennovated to a certain extent. J had a humongous breakfast platter (technically it was breakfast time...) but I had the mussels. Gotta get all the fresh seafood I can while I'm by the sea! It was nice. But not as good as the night before... Jeremy got scrapple with his breakfast, this was the first time either of us had had scrapple - we were both trepedatious, but we liked it!
After lunch we headed to Fell's Point (where we'd hung the night before) to park and hop on the water taxi and make our way around downtown. Above is a crappy shot from my blackberry of Baltimore from the water taxi. Here's a better one: We hopped off in the InnerHarbor and made our way around. We bought a full ticket to the Baltimore Maritime Museum - which is actually three historical ships that you can tour. They were all really cool. The submarine, USS Torsk, kind of freaked me out a little just to imagine living with 100 people underwater in that tiny little thing. Some of it's former crew were on there and told us about life on the sub. I'll pass.
The lightship Chesapeake was my favorite, it's a sailship and was much roomier than you'd expect. They fired the canon while we were aboard. That was cool.
But the USCGC Taney was the most touching to tour. It is the last surviving warship afloat today from the Dec 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. This ship played an important part in WWII and the entire time we were touring it I was thinking of J's grandfather, Sam. Sam was in the Navy during WWII and served on the USS Woolsey as a Fire Controlman 1st Class. Grandpa Sam has some amazing stories about his time in the Navy. A lot of them are funny and a lot of them bring tears to my eyes - but all of them are amazing. Some day, if it's okay with Sam, I'll have to tell some of his stories on here. But I digress... touring the USCGC Taney made me think of what it must have been like for Sam to be a young man on that ship for so long. He was in Europe most of the time, if I recall correctly, and the USS Woolsey made all of the invasions in Europe except Normandy. There's a great story involving Canne, France I'll have to ouch on another time...
And in the middle of hopping on and off boats, imagine my surprise and joy to discover the Perfect Cupcakes van! For those of you who haven't heard of Perfect Cupcakes in Baltimore - and if you're not a dorky food blog reading foodie you probably haven't - let me fill you in. A cute little truck parks in downtown Baltimore and sells yummy delicious cupcakes out of the back. What an AWESOME idea, huh??? Straight from the why-in-the-hell-didn't-I-think-of-that file.
Believe it or not - that was a late lunch/early dinner because we had to change our flight and head home earlier than we'd planned to. Why did we have to do that, you might ask... Because my best friend, Mary Beth, was FINALLY going to the hospital to have her baby girl - two and a half weeks late! She'd asked me to be there and there was no way I was going to miss it - even for some of the best fried oysters (outside of New Orleans, of course) in the world!
Friday, June 05, 2009
I headed downtown, (in the rain of course - seriously does the sun never freaking shine here?!?) a little after noon. Found it with no problem... But finding a parking spot was a whole 'nother matter. Found one just a couple of blocks away, but then I couldn't get the stupid park and pay kiosk to take my credit card. So there I stand, juggling my umbrella, my purse and my credit card... Obviously not having fun yet. But then a really nice older lady stopped (holding up traffic), rolled down her window (in the rain, mind you) and offered me her ticket that still had two hours left on it. Very sweet. Charm City indeed! Believe in the kindness of strangers, folks, it's still out there!
Words fail me. I love words, I'm a writer, I love to write and I feel that I excel in communication via the written word... Yet words fail me. There is just no way to describe how wonderfully full and varied this collection is.
George is here. Handome as ever. This iconic portrait (it's the one that was copied for the one dollar bill, y'all) is one of the must-see pieces at the Walters.
I had a hard time getting a good picture (especially since I was using my Blackberry - too lazy to haul J's big old camera with me), but this incredibly ornate altarspiece depecting The Passion of Christ is totally freaking amazing. Gorgeous. It's from the 1490s and each of the seven scenes are carved from a single block of wood.
Long before I was done and to my frustration (as I've described in ridiculously whiny detail above) it was time to leave the museum. I hadn't really left myself enough time for lunch, but on the walk back to my car, past several lovely shops, I spied Joss Cafe and Sushi Bar with it's bar at the window and couldn't resist... So lunch was tonkatsu and a glass of Toasted Head chardonnay. Mmmm, chardonnay. As I was leaving I saw this piece of paper in the window:
Turns out Joss's is also a favorite of local celebrity, Duff Goldman, from Food Network's Ace of Cakes! I LOVE DUFF! So anyway, since Duff loves Joss's, they're going to be featured on Food Network's new show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" in a couple of weeks on the "Fried" episode - he likes their fried shrimp heads. So yeah... I didn't try those. But my waitress was one of the girls he filmed with when they filmed the show there (that's her on the far right), so maybe she'll get her fifteen minutes of fame...
Anyway, this is all about me, not her - let's move on.
So I finished up my lunch (it was good but not Gertrude's fried oysters good but that's probably because fried oysters are better than pork all day every day), and headed back out to the burbs to pick Jeremy up from training.
For dinner we met up with a friend of his from high school and her boyfriend that live here in Baltimore. They took us to Bertha's for mussels. Good freakin call. The mussels were DELICIOUS. We ordered a plate for the table to share as an appetizer and I should have canceled my crabcake order and just had another plate of mussels for dinner. Honestly - these were great, tender and juicy and briny.
So anyway - that was Friday. Now I'm going to wake J up and we'll head back into Baltimore for a little more sightseeing before we have to head home.
I'll dive right back in with what I'm doing right now (because it's interesting), and then follow up in the next few days with a quick update on my life and what's been going on for the last few months. And probably a rant or two thrown in for good measure - how could I hold my tongue and not tell you exactly what I think of the incredible hypocrisy of the asshole/anti-Semetic/sexist/adulterous Mel Gibson... again.
So right now I'm in Baltimore, MD. I'm tagging along on a business trip with J. And it rocks! After a good ten years of business travel (most of it really boring and stressful), I finally get to be the one that gets to tag along and spend my days exploring. We flew in late Tuesday night and found that the car we'd reserved wasn't available. Immediately the scene from Seinfeld starts playing in my head, "Anybody can TAKE a reservation, it's HOLDING the reservation that's important." But before I could even complain, they upgraded us to a 2010 Mustang convertible. Awesome! Except it hasn't stopped raining since we got here. Heehee.
Anyway.... J is in training during the days so I have the days to myself to do the stuff he wouldn't want to do with me anyway. Wednesday I dropped him off, headed back to hotel to work out (good Heather) and then hit the shops. Spent the day shopping and got a mani/pedi. Total girl day. ATI (the company J is here to train with) took all the owners and spouses out to dinner that night. We went to the Rusty Scupper on the Inner Harbor. Had the crab cakes - because you HAVE to - and they were wonderful. So was the Toasted Head chardonnay (my favorite familiar fallback white). But the best part was that this place has the best view of the Inner Harbor - spectacular view of the Bay and the entire area from the top floor, where we were. Great start to the trip.
Thursday was awesome. Starbucks, workout and then headed into downtown Baltimore. Started the day at the Baltimore Museum of Art as soon as they opened. I love museums and taking my time strolling through them... if J were with me it would have been a fight to get him to go and after about twenty minutes the questions would have started - "Are you ready?", "About done?", "What time is it?", "I'll just meet you at the car..."
So since I had the day to myself, I spent a leisurely three hours exploring the museum. As you would expect in Baltimore, they have a very large collection of colonial era artwork, silver, etc. I saw the original trophy used for the Preakness and it was just gorgeous. But I couldn't get a decent picture of it - they ask that you don't use a flash, and the lighting just wasn't working when I tried to get a pic of the big beautiful ornate trophy. So... use your imagination and be impressed.They also had a beautiful collection of 5th century Antioch Mosaics - from an excavation of the ancient city of Antioch (known today as Antakya in southeastern Turkey near Syria). Just amazing. This one of Oceanus and Tethys resembles J and I in the mornings...
Enjoyed my lunch chatting with the bartender, she is working her way through college with an art history major; the older gentleman to my right, he works a few blocks away and loves the crab soup at Gertrude's and eats there almost every day; and the young college student to my left, he's broke but wanted to splurge at Gertrude's and enjoy the museum (also an art history major and he ordered the same thing I did).
All in all, it was an awesome day exploring a little corner of Baltimore alone. Picked J up from training and we headed to Rams Head Tavern for dinner. It's only about three minutes from where J's training. They were having a new beer launch from Fordham Brewing Company (Maryland's original brewery), so it was busy but it was still delicious. Jeremy had the shrimp salad sandwich and I had the crab bake. And of course he tried the new beer - New World Wheat Hefeweizen - which was REALLY good. I had a peartini which was... eh. But the dirty martini after that was delicious, as always. I don't know why I'm always trying a sweet drink just to decide, once again, that I don't like sweet drinks and settling back into my usual dirty martini. Duh.
Tonight we're meeting a couple of J's friends from high school for drinks and dinner. Hopefully I'll be cracking some crabs tonight. Now it's time to hit the shower and head back downtown for a little independant exploration...