Been a While!

So, I guess I kinda blew the 2014 A to Z Challenge, huh?

Been a hell of a time these last few months. I’m not going get into specifics, but I throw a few buzz words out there, so you can get the idea…

Back pain. Physical Therapy. Bills. Meds Back Pain. Meds. Back pain. Less pain. Off meds. New Car! Car totaled after 3 weeks. (not our fault) Bills. Back pain again. Back on meds. Possibly more physical therapy. Bills.

That about brings us up to current.

I really don’t like taking pain meds. Can’t really do much on them, cause I think I’m feeling better than I actually am… So I do a few things, and the next day, I walk like a question mark.

They also leave me in a bit of a haze where things like blogging, writing, talking, etc… are just too cumbersome to bother with when I don’t have to.

I think I’m coming out the other side of all that though. I’m starting to dare to be optimistic again. Feeling okay, moving around, and so on. Could deal with some cooler weather though. Tired of the hot humidity. I think that too is on the decline though.

Anyway, good to see ya. Hope all is well. Don’t be any stranger. I’ll be back again soon. Keep the light on.

 

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Spondylolisthesis Treatment

It’s been a while since my last post about what’s going on, so I thought I’d share about my spondylolisthesis, treatment, and repeatedly frustrating medical experiences over the last several months.

First, spondylolisthesis (which took me a few years to be able actually pronounce… Spawn-DEE-lawl-liss-thesis) is a condition in the back. For a super information overload, head over to Wikipedia. For the cliff’s notes, read on.

Essentially, I have a vertebrae that goes all out of alignment, and hurts like a son of a bitch. See here:

From what I understand, my particular instance of this is due to a genetic pre-disposition… I remember the first of my back problems starting when I was in high school, wrestling with a friend in 1995. He’d was on my back pinning me down, and I tried to sit up. I spent the next several hours wishing I was dead. The worst pain in the history of (my) pain.

Ancient History

I went to my Dr. at the time, and was told (and I quote) “You have the two most common chronic health problems: Back problems, and migraine headaches. Not a lot we can do about it, try to take it easy. If it hurts, don’t do it.” There may have been a couple of other stupid recommendations, but that was the conversation. “Thanks, here’s your co-pay. I’ll go crawl home now.”

Believing that the doctors (you know, the conventionally recognized experts?) weren’t able to help, I made meals out of ibuprofen and laying on my back for a few years. The pain came and went with different degrees of intensity, but I got by. Just figured “Eh, living with pain is normal.”

Years later (perhaps 2007?) my brother recommended that I go to his chiropractor, who had treated several defects in my brother’s spine, a couple of which were birth-related. I went in, described my problems. He poked an prodded a little and then did X-rays. Sure enough, he diagnosed the condition. I climbed onto the table, and in 5 minutes my pain was gone.

I returned a couple of times a week for a little while, as when things are out of whack that long, the muscles get used to it, and tend to pull things back out-of-place until they are conditioned to do what they’re supposed to. I had zero pain for YEARS following my chiropractic treatment.

I’d relayed this information to people over the years, and was met with a variety of responses, which both confused, and frustrated me. Why someone would choose to believe that I was lying, or simply mistaken is beyond me – but they do. Western doctors approach chiropractic medicine with skepticism and sometimes contempt. Otherwise perfectly reasonable people have actually said “I realize you drank the chiropractic Kool-aide, but I just don’t buy it.”

To me, it makes perfect sense… Something is where it shouldn’t be, put it back where it belongs.

Recent history

March of this year, I was gathering the trash to take out to the curb. I was leaning over partially, sorting the recycling into its different bins, and suddenly there was a sharp stabbing pain, like a kick in the spine. I dropped to my back, writhing in pain for a few minutes. I knew exactly what it was.

Knowing that my primary care physician wouldn’t know what to do, I hobbled to the car, sat very awkwardly in the seat, and drove to the chiropractor. He was able to get me partially treated, but my muscles were all in spasm, and the full treatment would have been too painful. He told me to come back in a couple of days, but in the meantime, call my primary care, and get a muscle relaxer.

As you may be imagining, the fact that I had never (since ’95) included them in any of the discussion about this condition was a problem. I went to my doctor, almost in tears. Met with nurse practitioner, who prescribed me percoset, flexural and naproxen, but was skeptical that it was Spondylolisthesis.

I called them the next day in unimaginable pain despite the drugs. They told me to take an additional percoset at each dosage. (making 2 in the am, 2 at lunch, and 2 at bed). A couple of days later, I called again with the same complaints, hoping they’d speed things up, or something… They told me to take a 3rd pill at each dosage. They’d had to call in several additional prescriptions over the next couple weeks, as I kept running out.

I got the x-rays, and they reviewed them. “there’s definitely something going on in there!” I was told. They also saw a couple of degenerated disks. “We’re going to send you for an MRI to be sure, and then have it reviewed by a Neurosurgeon. I’d say we should send you to physical therapy, but I want them to give an okay first.”

I asked if they’d like to see the X-rays my Chiropractor had done, as they clearly showed the Spondylolisthesis. “No,” I was told. I was not given a reason. The problem with the X-rays I got most recently, I was laying on my back… The vertebrae is hyper-mobile, so on my back, it slips back (maybe not completely) into place.

I went and got my Chiropractor’s x-rays anyway. While there, he asked me if he could give me another treatment. I hesitated, as I sort of wanted to be in the worst shape possible when I went for the MRI, but by then I was having to walk with a cane, and still the massive doses of opiates I was taking weren’t touching the pain. He said they’d still see all the tissue damage evidence anyway. I agreed. Five minutes later, I was walking out of there upright with moderate discomfort (still on Percosets). No cane necessary.

I arrived for my MRI, greeted with a $270 co-pay. Had the MRI (again, laying on my back) and went about my business. I was still having a fair amount, although not as much as before. I contacted my doctor to see about a new prescription. I was told “the insurance company will not agree, so we’re going to give you vicodin.” I said it was fine, and asked if it mattered who picked up my prescription. They said no… I said I would send my wife in a couple of hours, and again asked if that was okay. I was told “Yes, that’s no problem.”

I got tired of sitting around at home, and felt My wife and I went out to lunch that day, and stopped at the medical center. She went in, and came out 20 minutes later, frustrated. They told her it had to be me who picked up the prescription.

I went in, and was read a riot act… If I need someone else to pick up my prescriptions, I need to provide permission in writing. And if I was going to take more than the prescribe amount, I needed to notify them first. Oh, and this prescription wasn’t even on my med list. I decided to let all that go, but I was pretty pissed off. Not only had I notified them, but I was TOLD BY them to take more, and the fact that the news stuff wasn’t on my med list, was not my fault.

I eventually got my appointment with the neurosurgeon. He said that he was unable to see Spondylolisthesis, but certainly Spondylolysis. He said that treatment is a surgery, but only recommended if I experienced a similar “episode” like I had in March, more often than 3 or 4 times a year. He then said “but we’ll have a CT scan done for you, that’ll show us for sure.”

By now, I was getting pretty low on patience with this whole thing. If the CT scan would tell us for sure, why didn’t we do that first? …or second?

He said that he’d send me to physical therapy in the meantime, and if he sees anything surprising in the CT scan results, he’d contact me. Otherwise, have a nice life.

I went to 11 sessions of physical therapy, and I asked several times about a co-pay. Was kinda just shrugged at. Upon my 12th, I was told “Do you know you have a $50 co-pay??” That was the end of my physical therapy.

I went back to my primary care recently as just a follow-up. I gave them this whole story about my frustrations with the mis-communication and dysfunction. I was kind of shrugged at. I was told I should call the neurosurgeon to follow-up even though he said he’d call me if there was a reason, AND that they’d set me up with another guy. “We work with a new guy now, he’s pretty good”.

I asked about the occasional pain flare up, was told “We do all that different now, if you can tolerate it, that’s probably best.” I wasn’t interested enough to find out what they meant by “do it differently now”, but I have to imagine it’s an improvement.

I discussed this all with my chiropractor, and he explained that Spondylolisthesis is a condition where the vertebrae is out of alignment, like in that picture above. Spondylolysis is a condition where there are fractures in the vertebrae which can LEAD to Spondylolisthesis. So essentially, when I go TO the chiropractor, I have thesis… when I leave, I have lysis. Apparently neurosurgery also includes splitting hairs.

SO. As you can see, I have had a personally frustrating last few months with regard to health, and I refrained from posting about it until now, because at this point I’m sort of fine, and just looking back…

The Longwood Mall, Brookline MA

When I was a kid, my father once took me to a place with some really huge old trees. I was probably around 11, and never really knew where it was, but I remembered he had to hoist me up into this tree, and I carved my initials in among the carvings of my brother’s initials that they’d done some years before me. (They were 13, 14 and 15 when I was born).

Something I realized just recently about Brookline, is that there were beech trees. I’ve yet to see a beech tree anywhere but Brookline. As I kid, I’d see them now and then, just figured “Well, it’s a tree, of course it’s gigantic”. I had no idea they were so uncommon, at least around here.

This weekend I was north of the city, and had to come back down through it to get home from a family function, and since I was giving my mother a ride, I asked her about it. Turned out it was nearby, so we stopped and I got some pretty awesome (in my opinion) pictures.

DSCF2359

I took the picture above because I liked how the trail lead into the trees. I took more every few steps:DSCF2360 Closer…DSCF2361

Closer still…DSCF2362

And as it turned out, the trail that led into the trees, didn’t. It led into the TREE. One tree. VERY cool to stand 40′ from a tree trunk, turn around, and be another 20′ from the edge of the foliage of that same tree.DSCF2363 DSCF2364 DSCF2365 DSCF2366 DSCF2367 DSCF2368 DSCF2370 DSCF2371 DSCF2372I didn’t stay long enough to find my old initials, but one day I may.

 

New Hampshire Trip July 2013

Once upon a time, I was small. er. Smaller.

… let’s just go with young.

Once upon a time, I was young. I believe I was about 8 years old when I (was) moved (by my older and more useful siblings and parents) to Brighton MA, to the top of this foolishly steep hill in Oak Square. I continued to go to school in Brookline MA, and before you start blowing whistles, we paid to keep me there, unlike those who just use some other family member’s address in the same town.

Because I didn’t go to the local schools, I didn’t meet many other local kids. I did meet a few in the area around my house though, one of whom I became very good friends with. This was great, because the only other company I really had in the area were the dogs that were owned by folks in the neighborhood.

It sounds really strange to say it now, as I’ve never seen anything like it, but that mini-mountain in Oak Square was literally infested with dogs. It was as if there were no leash laws, and perhaps there weren’t, I don’t really know, but people would let their dogs out, like they would their cats. It was not uncommon to see four or five dogs go trotting by in a pack.

It was there that I met the smartest dog I’ve ever known, as well as the dumbest dog I’ve ever known. Both were golden retrievers.

But dogs aside, this fellow with whom I made friends used to take me on his family outings all the time, and his family became like a second family to me. A good measure of who I am today is due to them.

Anyway, they own a cottage on a lake in NH, and they used to bring me along with them. It quickly became one of my favorite places on earth, and I’d spend weeks at a time when on vacation from school there.

Time went on, as it tends to, and I got a lot taller and such. Long story short, I started to date the girl who lived year round next door to their lake house. This went on for a couple of years, this long distance teenaged thing, back before email and cell phones… Doomed from the start. She and I broke up (in another rather long and not all that interesting story) in 1998, and thus ended my extended stays for some time.

I found reasons not to go back up, as I really had no desire to see her, or the places that reminded me of her, etc.

A few years back, (maybe 10?) I started going again, but only for the July 4th get together, where tons of folks from his family would come as well. We’d all pack into the house like sardines, people on couches, mattress pads, the floor, etc. …but it would only ever been for a few days at a time.

The last time I actually spent a full week away was April, 1998. Since then, I’ve taken a week off several times, but never left the house. Any time we ever went away, even our honeymoon, it was only ever for three or four days.

This year, we went back to the lake house, and we stayed for a full week and more. We got up on a Friday, and were actually by ourselves (my wife, the kids and I) until the following Thursday when the second family and THEIR extended family began showing up. This was the first REAL weeks vacation for me in fifteen years. BOY was it great.

I’d have stayed longer if I can, of course. But I can’t say I’m not glad to be back. Looking forward to kicking this blog back into gear though… Hopefully I still have a few readers left lingering around!

 

Lots of Fun Stuff!

I totally, completely, and unforgivably bombed out of the A to Z challenge this year… I mean, totally stopped blogging completely at like, “Q” I think…

I got a little tied up. I’m currently creating a user forum for D&D geeks such as myself and the website package (E107) which I used to use for mattconlon.com just got a HUGE update. MAJOR re-write, and I road that boat. Continue reading

Farewell, Bruno. Rest In Peace.

I live in the woods. Here, you either have cats, or you have mice. We chose the former. You may remember a post I did in September 2012, about two of our kittens. Their mother died while they were still very small, and we had to bottle feed them, and clean them constantly.

Most of our cats are rather feral now, and won’t come in except to eat. Bruno and Charlie though, are indoor cats.

Here they are below, a couple of months old. Bruno is on the left, Charlie, the right.

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Having been bottle fed and handled from such an early age, they both were very friendly.

Bruno attached himself to me, and Charlie to my wife. They’d come into the room, jump up on your lap, rub their faces all over your chin.

Bruno had a bit of a drooling problem… He wasn’t the most adept of cats. He frequently misjudged when he jumped, didn’t quite make it up on the couch, never really learned to run when the dominant male cat was around outside… He thought everyone was his friend.

Now that they’re a little older, they’ve started doing things that adult cats do. Laying around a lot more. Not chasing little thingies. …marking their territory… Though Charlie doesn’t, Bruno always would, and I wouldn’t find out until the most inconvenient time, that “his territory today was my hat, or my jacket, or a roll of paper towels.

Bruno liked to jump up on the hood of the car when you got in. I don’t know if he thought he was coming with us, or just wanted to visit, or what… He’d surf on the car for ten or twelve feet before jumping off.

He had some pretty bad gas as a kitten. I’m told it’s common for cats who have been drinking the formula to have gas like that. Bruno’s was pretty terrible. I started calling him Bean-o, and subsequently just “Beans”.

We noticed a few days ago, that he wasn’t around. Any of the other cats, we wouldn’t have thought twice of. Bruno however, was not really equipped for life out doors. I fully believe he would have tried to make friends with a wandering coyote.

In fact, I think he might have.

I found him yesterday, beneath our deck. I’ll spare you the grim details… suffice to say, he was a meal to something. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to go digging in the woods right then, so I covered him over so the girls wouldn’t find him. I struggled for the night, wondering if I should tell my daughters or not. Ashley, my oldest (now 7) speculated that he may have been eaten, but I wasn’t sure how she’d take confirmation of the fact.

The decision turned out not to be in my hands anyway. Ashley found him this morning. I was worried when she told me. It was certainly a somewhat grizzly scene, and he was such a sweet cat. She seems to have taken it well, so far… She’d found Bruno’s mother when she died too. She still talks about her (Abbey) from time to time. She’s happy that at least mother and son are now together. I’ll be watching her though, I’m sure it’ll hit her at some point, when nobody’s expecting it.

Here’s how I prefer to remember my buddy, Beans:

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Always happy. Always cuddly. Always in our hearts.

Goodbye Beans.