Windigo died on Sunday. I am still having a hard time with it. (I know, it's only been a few days). What makes me the most sad, is that we weren't there when it happened. Sande found her soon after she was gone. She just died -- very suddenly. No idea why. She was just lying in the living room, looking like she was sleeping. I still don't understand.
We were in the Boundary Water when it happened. Dave's mom called us just as we were sitting down to eat in Ely. They wrapped her in a towel and put her in a box in the garage. The hardest part was coming home and seeing her that way. That as really tough. I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye to her -- this was so unexpected.
She is being cremated. We decided not to keep the ashes. I don't see much point on having them just sit on the shelf. I think a nice picture of her there is much better. I don't need the ashes to remember what a great cat she was.
It so strange at home now -- much more quiet. I don't have her following me around the house. (She was there every turn you made) and she isn't there to bat at me and my book while I am reading. She's not there to terrorize Rigby. It's just so strange not to have her around. I miss her. She was such a good cat.
Well it's been a while since I have last posted. I seem to be getting caught up more and more on facebook and the like. Not that it's a bad thing, it just sort of happened.
I am thinking about going back to writing in a real journal. You know, with real paper and a real pen. I kept a journal for almost 13 years (all though middle school, high school and college). I stopped writing sometime in 2005. Not sure why -- again, it just kind of happened. I am realizing now how much I miss it. Putting a pen to paper and just writing. Not having to worry about spell checking or who is going to read it. Think about it -- when was the last time you actually wrote something more than a couple of words with a real pen on paper??
Anyhow -- I am going to go buy myself a nice journal at the bookstore and start again. Don't worry I will still post here occasionally and I will still be on facebook... ;-)
Here is the list of National Parks I visited this year!
Cape Hatteras National Seashore -- Nags Head, Buxton, Ocracoke, NC Cape Lookout National Seashore -- Harkers Island, NC Casa Grande Ruins National Monument -- Coolidge, AZ Fort Raleigh National Historic Site -- Manteo, NC Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial -- Washington, DC Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park -- Fredericksburg, VA George Washington Birthplace National Monument -- Westmoreland County, VA Grand Canyon National Park -- Grand Canyon, AZ Korean War Veterans Memorial -- Washington, DC Lincoln Memorial -- Washington, DC Montezuma Castle National Monument -- Camp Verde, AZ National World War II Memorial -- Washington, DC Prince William Forest Park -- Triangle, VA Richmond National Battlefield Park -- Richmond, VA Saguaro National Park -- Tucson, AZ Thomas Jefferson Memorial -- Washington, DC Thomas Stone National Historic Site -- Port Tobacco, MD Tuzigoot National Monument -- Clarkdale, AZ Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- Washington, DC Walnut Canyon National Monument -- Flagstaff, AZ Washington Monument -- Washington, DC National World War II Memorial -- Washington, DC Wright Brothers National Memorial -- Kill Devil Hills, NC Wupatki National Monument -- Flagstaff, AZ
Here are the books I read this year: (bolded books are ones I recommend!)
Sold -- Patricia McCormic The Abstinence Teacher -- Tom Perrotta Goat -- Brad Land Skinny Bitch -- Rory Freedman The Joy Luck Club -- Amy Tan Zeitoun -- Dave Eggers Life of Pi -- Yann Martel Gifted -- Nikita Lalwani Eyes, Breath, Memory -- Edwidge Danticat The Talking Horse and The Sad Girl and The Village Under the Sea -- Mark Haddon Girlbomb -- Janice Erlbaum Hey Ranger! -- Jim Burnett The End of the Alphabet -- CS Richardso Marked for Life -- Joie Davidow Superfoods RX -- Steven Pratt The Uncommon Reader -- Alan Bennett Here's the Story -- Maureen McCormick The Mole People -- Jennifer Toth Hope and Other Damgerous Pursuits Gossip of the Starlings -- Nina de Gramont The House on Mango Street -- Sandra Cisneros A Confederacy of Dunces -- John Kennedy Toole The Kiss -- Kathryn Harrison Ex Libris -- Anne Fadiman A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah Dying to Cross -- Jorge Ramos
Wow -- it seems I haven't posted here on Livejournal in forever! (Dang Facebook!)
peachy_c and I just got back from yet another adventure. We toured all over Arizona! We had a fantastic time and I finally made it out the Grand Canyon! woohoo! I also hit up my 100th NPS site and am now just over a quarter of a way finished with my goal....
This is the current state of affairs in front of our house: (they have been tearing up the gas main all along our street for about 3 weeks now)
Now picture this: It's 1:00 AM. I am trying to sleep. We have the windows open. I hear this horrible screeching and crashing outside. I look out the window to find this ghetto SUV whipping down the street and around the corner. He literally smashed into five of these things. Two go flying down the street clattering and sliding. Two more get wedged underneath his car. He tries to keep driving. There are sparks shooting out. He manages to get one free and tries to keep driving further down the street. More sparks are flying and more horrible screeching noises. He finally stops at the end of the block and gets out of his car. Some lights on the house down the street go on and people come out to see what's going on.
This is now the state of affairs in front of our house:
What in the hell?! It was like watching a video game of "how many construction thingys can you hit?" (what ARE those things called anyhow?!) I woke up peachy_c and made him go outside and move the broken ones and the ones that went flying because I saw two more people trying to navigate their way down the street around them. This guy sure did a number out there. I bet he was drunk. He is going to have fun waking up tomorrow wondering what in the hell he did to his ghetto Suburnban.
Okay, now back to bed.
Nothing like a little drama to keep my mind off surgery tomorrow....
So, I will not be going to India in January. My interview was this past Saturday. I must say it was pretty intense and a little overwhelming. I haven't been on an interview in almost four years and I really had no idea what to expect. They were pretty vague about the whole thing in the first place.
There were 16 candidates that were called to the interview. (They were only choosing 4, plus two alternates.) There were 13 interviewers. The first thing we had to do was go around and share our three minute statement we were supposed to have prepared. I ended up being the 13th person to go, (names drawn randomly) so as people went around and either read or rambled, I got more and more nervous. I could almost tell right at that point there was no way I was going to get selected. There were some total rock stars in this crowd. Much more qualified, dynamic, well spoken and accomplished than me! Yikes! (A lawyer, 2 teachers, people who had traveled all over the world...)
Anyhow, after that, 7 stations were set up and there were 2 interviewers (one station had only one) at each. There were 3-4 candidates scheduled to be at each station for 12 minutes. (Kind of like speed dating!) There were 4-5 questions at each station. So as the interviewers asked the questions I had to listen to everyone else’s answers to the questions. It was really hard when the person next to you gave such a stellar answer that I couldn't even remember what I was going to say, you know? Some of the questions were really hard or I simply just didn't know the answer to. (Such as, "Tell us how much you know about the current political situation in India"; "Describe the US in two sentences to someone in India who has never been here" or "What has been the most defining moment in your life thus far?") It did not help that I happened to be at station with two men who knew everything there was to know about India and started talking about Hindu Nationalism and rambled off all the leaders of India.... and what do I say then? "ah... yea... what he just said...?" And what do you do when the person next two you rambles on for 3 minutes trying to answer the question and then it comes to you and they say, "quick, 15 seconds!"
At the end we had to group back up and had one minute for a closing statement. At this point, it was pretty obvious who was going to be chosen. I mean, even watching the interviewer’s faces and body language as we went around could tell you that. That was what made it hard. You could kind of tell just by the way they smiled (or didn't) who people liked. We were there for over four hours!!
Funny thing is, all of the other candidates were awesome! I would have loved to just hang and chat with some of them. They were great. But I walked out of there knowing that it wasn't going to happen for me. And that's okay. I got the confirmation call yesterday. I am just proud of myself for doing it in the first place. It was quite the experience and I would have always wondered what would have happened if I didn't apply, you know?
It is now time to focus on other things. Like surgery. And getting better. ;-) Then Halloween and a possible trip in November.
First -- my surgery is finally scheduled! 09/09/09. What a day to have surgery, right? I am ready. The surgeon was great. What was even better was how positive he was about what will happen after the surgery. He was convinced that after it's over I am going to feel 100% better. They are going to remove the whole (left) adrenal gland. He says it's easier this way and my right adrenal gland is working perfectly normal. (It's actually compensating for the left one already.) He said I won't need to be on any hormone drugs or anything. He also said I am going to loose all the weight and all of my other symptoms are going to go away! Yay! He sounded very sure of all of this. I realize it won't all happen over night, but this is still fantastic news. (He told me I would get back to my 120 pounds that I used to be at! ha! One can hope….) I will be in the hospital for at least one night, maybe two. But I should recover pretty quickly at home. I am so ready to get this show on the road. Only 2 more weeks....
And in other news, I was called for an interview for the Group Study Exchange in India!! Yay!! I am so excited. I really hope I get to go. I think I would be a fantastic candidate. By then I will be all healed up and hopefully a few pounds lighter and feeling great. I am nervous about the interview. It sounds like there is a lot of public speaking. I will need to practice. I need to prepare a 3 minute statement. This is what they want:
"Please prepare a 3 minute statement that includes the following information – an introduction of yourself, a little bit about your vocation, and what assets or strengths you bring as a team member to a Group Study Exchange Team. Also bring several photos that describe you and be prepared to discuss those photos."
Ah! I need to dig out the old photo albums! It also says that the interview will last 3 hours! Omigosh, what I am going to wear! I need to look not fat... grrrr. Wish me luck!
Who knew something the size of a pea could cause so much trouble! Last Friday I had a CT scan done of my abdomen. My doctor was lead to believe after all the blood tests were done that the tumor was on my adrenal gland. The CT scan was kind of crazy. (I have never had anything like this done.) It was a big donut shaped machine. It talks to you! ("breathe", "hold your breath") and then there were little smiley faces that lit up when you could breathe and one that shows you to hold your breath. I had to be injected with some crazy dye so they could see my insides better. I had one scan done without the dye and then had one scan done with the dye. I learned that when something is injected into your blood stream it takes on average about 13 seconds to run through your system. I felt it. The dye was really hot and warm and I felt it go through my system super quick. What a strange feeling. It only lasted about 3 minutes.
Anyhow, today I talked to my doctor. They found a 3.5 mm mass on my adrenal gland. (Stupid me wasn't even thinking to ask which side it was on!) I guess my doctor was still slightly hesitant as my blood work still told him there was a very slight possibility that it could be pituitary. But he consulted with a specialist at Mayo and that doctor told him, no go in and take the tumor out. It's very rare that someone would have a tumor in BOTH places. So I am now meeting with the surgeon next Wednesday, the 19th. I guess at this consultation I will learn about the surgery and what they are going to do and schedule a date. So we are moving along. I just want to get all this over with and get better! I hope that the surgery will be sooner than later. My doctor is going out of town on September 22 and he told me he wants to do all the pre-operative work so it will be before then at least. I guess I can't complain. It hasn't even quite been a month since I was diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome and we are already (almost) scheduled for surgery.
I applied for a Group Study Exchange in India!! I am so totally excited about this. It is sponsored through the Rotary Foundation.
If I get accepted I would spend the month of January in India! It's basically a professional development trip. I would represent the MLC and would be on a team of five people where we would travel around to different organizations and talk about our professions and learn about how our professions are practiced there. We would exchange ideas and thoughts about our work. I would stay with a host family (someone who is Rotary member there.) Everything is provided -- including travel expenses!
I told myself why the hell not. What an amazing experience! If I didn't apply I would be a fool. This would be amazing. I have no idea what the competition is like and how many people apply, but that's okay. If I don't get to go, it wasn't meant to be. But I am not afraid to try. I sent the application today. The only really big issue may be my health. But if all goes well after my surgery, I should be just fine and all healed up ready to go by January. The only thing I am worried about is that I have to be available for an interview on August 29th. If I have surgery before then I may not be well enough to attend -- but maybe, if they like my application enough, they would make an exception? We will just have to wait and see what happens. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Send positive thoughts my way....;-)
A few weeks ago, peachy_c and I went up to my cabin for a quick getaway. While we were there I started talking with my mother. She said to me that she didn't want to upset me but while we were out at my cousin's wedding in Washington, DC some of my family members were concerned about me. They said that I didn't look like I felt well and some of them didn't even recognize me. My mom said that I looked swollen in the face, almost as if I had the mumps. Now I know I have gained some weight, but she pointed out something that actually really been bothering me. My big fat huge face. I have been noticing it for a while, but I thought I was just getting fat, especially in my face. But lately it just seemed to be getting so fat and it was really feeling uncomfortable. What she said wasn't really a surprise. She also asked me if I had been to the doctor lately about some other symptoms I had been having. -- ie, a lot of numbness/tingling/cramping up of my hands, fingers, feet... etc..
I had gone to my regular doctor in April about the tingling and about the weight gain. She wasn't very helpful. The thought maybe I had Carpal Tunnel or something. She gave me wrist guards to wear. I knew that it didn't seem right, but I thought I would do what she asked. And the weight gain, well she said they would do some blood work and test my thyroid. She also told me to keep working out and eating better. So I did what she said. Nothing got better. Things actually got worse. My blood work all came back normal.
So, I tried to make an appointment with her again after we got back from the cabin trip. I was having some other crazy symptoms -- my migraines were getting worse, I was having a lot of pain/cramping/tingling in my legs and hands, blurry vision (which has been going on for over a year and eye doctor told me everything was just fine) lots of sweating and always being flushed etc.... -- but I couldn't get into see her. So I just made an appointment with a different doctor at the same clinic. I thought well maybe it would be good to get another opinion anyhow.
So, I go in for my appointment and he asks me what's happening and I told him about my face and the tingling and then he starts asking me if I have this, or this, and this and my response was YES to every single on of his questions. So he puts me on the table and looks me over and he says well there is this thing called Cushing's Syndrome. Now the funny thing was that the day before my appointment I was talking to my friend Ericka about some of my symptoms and she got on the computer and typed them up and Cushing's Syndrome came up and we both kind of laughed it off because it's super rare. So when doctor said that, I had already heard of it slightly. Then he looked at me and said, "I've been a doctor for 25 years and I have never actually seen this in a person, but if I were a betting man, this is what you have." It was kind of funny, because you could almost see this sparkle in his eye, like "ooh, I found something rare and new!" Not that I mind, I feel like maybe he would actually help me because of an increased interest. So he ordered some tests -- a blood test and a 24 urine test, (where I had to pee in a giant bottle for 24 hours and keep it refrigerated! fun fun stuff, let me tell you) both of which tested my cortisol levels.
So I go home to pee in my bottle and of course start looking things up about Cushing's Syndrome. (and of course proceed to freak myself out...) I look on three different websites at the list of symptoms and my mouth literally dropped open! I couldn't freaking believe it. I had EVERY SINGLE ONE of the symptoms. I knew right then that there was no way I DIDN'T have have this. Symptoms include:
Weight gain, particularly around your midsection and upper back Fatigue Muscle weakness Rounding of your face (moon face) Facial flushing Fatty pad or hump between your shoulders (buffalo hump) Pink or purple stretch marks (striae) on the skin of your abdomen, thighs, breasts and arms Thin and fragile skin that bruises easily Slow healing of cuts, insect bites and infections Depression, anxiety and irritability Difficult time concentrating Thicker or more visible body and facial hair (hirsutism) Irregular or absent menstrual periods in females Decreased libido New or worsened high blood pressure Headaches Bone loss, leading to fractures over time Back Pain Vision problems Sleep disturbances Thirsty all the time Peeing all the time
So my blood work comes back: in a normal person the cortisol level should be between 5-25 mine was 48! The urine test came back two days later and a normal person’s cortisol level should be between 40-70 mine was, get this, 1128!! So I go back to see my doctor and he is obviously quite concerned. My body is freaking out. It's pulsing with cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone. My blood pressure was super high -- 181/110. He was also quite concerned -- the nurse took it twice and then he took it again. He prescribed me some blood pressure meds to help calm me down. I explained to him that over the past week my symptoms had gotten much worse and he said it didn't shock him and he was actually surprised that I was functioning properly with this amount of cortisol in my system and my blood pressure being so high. He told me that I needed to not do anything remotely stressful, no extra physical activity and to rest. He referred me to an Endocrinologist. He officially diagnosed me with Cushing's Syndrome.
So what is Cushing's Syndrome you ask? Well of course you can look it up -- but it means that I have way too much cortisol in my system. Why? Well, because I have a tumor either on my pituitary gland (which is the stem of my brain) or on my adrenal glands (which are near my kidneys). Yep, that's right I have a tumor! Possibly a brain tumor.
I saw the Endrocrinologist this morning. It was (I thought) kind of amusing. He was funny. It was obvious that he hadn't seen my chart yet. He looked it and then me and he said, "You have Cushing's Syndrome?!" like it was surprise and I said, well that's what my doctor told me. He then clicked over to see my test results and his mouth slightly dropped and he, (no joke) said, "Holy Shit! You DO have Cushing's!" and he asked me what made my doctor run tests for this? So I ran down my list of symptoms and he wrote them down. You could kind of see things clicking in his brain and then he put me up on the table and examined me and he then looked and me said, "Well, I am thoroughly convinced!" He then told me he had only seen a few cases of this in his day and proceeded to draw me a picture of my glands and what he thought was happening. He said in most cases the tumors are the pituitary glands, but after looking at the last blood test, in my case, he is leaning more towards a tumor on my adrenal gland. But we need to find out still. He asked me if I had insurance. (Thank God, I do) and said, good, this could expensive. He also told me that we were going to be come good friends. He said, yes, I will need surgery, but we need to find out where. He told me I was special and give me his card with is pager number and told me I could call him if I needed anything. He was also very concerned about my blood pressure. It was slightly down today 158/100, but that is still high. He told me I need to keep taking my blood pressure pills and that I also need to relax and try not to stress.
So, as of today, we are running another test. I had blood drawn (again) and now I have to take these meds that are supposed to reduce my cortisol levels. I need to take them for two days every six hours and then go back on Thursday morning and have blood drawn again. Somehow this test will help to tell where the tumor is. Then they will either run a MRI or a CAT scan based on what they find. (I think they are doing this because both an MRI and a CAT scan are expensive and he doesn't want to run any unnecessary tests in case my insurance says that I didn't need it, a blood test is much cheaper if he can get the same information I guess....) He also gave me a chest x-ray. Gotta love medical technology when your x-ray shows up on the computer within five minutes! I asked him what he was looking for on the chest x-ray and he kind of looked at me out of the side of eye and he was said, well.... lung cancer. I guess in very rare cases, some people who get Cushing's Syndrome it was caused my a tumor or cancer in the their lungs! Yikes -- but no, I don't have lung cancer.
So. Happy Birthday to me! Here I was, thinking I was just getting fat and older. Who knew that I had a tumor that was causing all this. Okay, in all seriousness, I am quite freaked out. I am really sick. I am just starting to realize how unwell I feel. I have sort of been ignoring a lot of the symptoms thinking they were no big deal. I mean lots of people get migraines, deal with weight issues, deal with sleep issues, have back pain etc etc.. you know? I think I have probably had this for at least a year in a half, two years and I just didn't know it! How scary. The new doctor (thank goodness I found him and that he knew what was wrong with me) said he is surprised that my old regular doctor didn't run a more comprehensive blood work-up when I was there in April when I had the tingling hands and feet. I can't fault her for that -- this is super rare -- see the Endocrinologist’s reaction and he is a specialist in this kind of stuff! I am slightly freaked out about having surgery – actually more worried about the recovery process. Honestly I would rather have the surgery for the adrenal gland tumor but not recovery process because often times they have the remove the whole gland. Which means lots more meds and balancing out of my system --- possibly meds for life. Though the surgery for the pituitary gland obviously freaks me out more. They have to go in through the nasal passages or upper lip. The physical healing from that surgery seems like it would be a lot longer. All we can do is wait and see right now.
Thank goodness that this is all treatable and curable! I am going to be okay. If all goes well, all of my symptoms will go away! No more migraines, my vision will correct it self, my legs and hands will stop hurting and I am going to loose a lot of weight (from the sounds of it pretty quickly --- the doctor says when this is all done I will probably need a bone density test because gaining and loosing that much weight is really tough on your bones, I guess.) I am going to feel and LOOK like my old self again! I can’t wait. I also refuse to be a sick person. I am going to get better as soon as possible and get my life back again!
Okay that’s it for now. I just freaking wrote a novel. I am sharing my whole story here. I am not embarrassed or shy. If you want to know more, just ask. I will tell you what I know. Please send your positive thoughts, prayers, karma my way. I will need it as I go through this process. I will let everyone know when I find out more!
Well it's been a while. I am too tired right now to write much, but peachy_c and I just got home from another awesome adventure! We had a great road trip through Virginia, Maryland, DC and the Outter Banks of North Carolina.
On our trip we were able to hit up 16 NPS sites! (woot!) Out of those, 10 were new.
Pictures posted on my facebook page, but here are a few favorites: