Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Subscribe to This Blog

And to other Internet pages. There are many ways you can subscribe to updates on Internet pages, I understand, but the only subscription service I've been able to understand is from Blogarithm.

If you subscribe through Blogarithm, that service will send you an email once a day on the days I update my Blog. See the Blogarithm box in the right column? Enter your email address, hit the "Click Here" button, and you will be taken to Blogarithm. If you don't have an account with the service, you will have to set one up. If you do have an account, the service will give you a chance to enter this Blog to your list of followed Internet sites.

Given I am not updating this Blog as often as I used to, I hope this makes your life easier.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Year Ago: Venita Bald and Jim Getting Sick

I came across this today, the only photo of me when I was bald. That's Jim. The photo was taken about 2 weeks before he got so sick with liver failure. Jim and I look back on this photo now and are amazed at how sick he looked.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Bathroom Chaos

This is the chaos going on in the bathroom right now. The plumber has the floor opened, and has just disabled my french draining system. I will have to have one or more exploratory holes opened elsewhere in the basement to site a sump pump. The Mushroom Factor!!

First 2 guys are the plumbers, Steve and Joe (father and son), the next (in green) is Jim, and the last is George, the contractor.

This is my 2nd video ever. The first was minutes before and featured my feet.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Renovation Chaos

We gave the contractor the go-ahead on the renovation project on Sunday and on Monday--BAM--the bathroom deconstruction unexpectedly began. I was at the Dr. Chemo's office for my 6-month check-up and came home to my foyer rug turned upside down and the banging of hammers. I was immediately sent out for paint. I've made about eight home center runs this week.

It's hard to keep all the project characters straight. We have the contractor and sometimes one or two helpers. We have the patio guy, the shed guy, the plumber and son, the electrician and son, and the floor guy. George, Henry, Andy, Paul, Steve, Steve, Joe, Rich, ???, and Joe. With chemo brain, I can't get them sorted out.

The bathroom and closet (formerly utility room) are stripped to the studs. The entrance door has been reframed to accommodate a 36" door. Jim has chosen the paint colors he wants in the bathroom and bed/family room. The laundry room has new shop lights, most of its new paint, and most of its new ClosetMaid shelving. The plumber will bust up the floor tomorrow. The electrician will start rough wiring tomorrow. The floor guy will put the vinyl down in the laundry on Monday. The shed pad goes down on Tuesday and the shed will be delivered next week.

The rest of the outside work is waiting on the new patio door to arrive, which takes 6-8 weeks. The windows come in at the same time. So we have another wave of chaos to look forward to in several weeks.

Stefani's diabetic kitty foster is here for two weeks, closed up most of the time in the "separation room." Her name is SweetPea. She is OK, though a little standoffish, with people. She apparently hates other animals. During an introduction to Ennis, SP charged him, and luckily I got into the middle. Stefani called SP off, but I did get a little damage to my hands from SP's razor sharp nails. I have never seen such a healthy appetite on a cat, outside of a feral colony or cat room at a shelter. She has the cutest little phrweet instead of a meow. She's been scratching paint off the door jam of her room.

I saw Dr. Chemo on Monday. He apologized that his staff refused to become involved in my social security claim. Said he'd be glad to summarize my peripheral neuropathy condition in writing for my lawyer or Social Security. I'm not sure whether that is worth it because that is such a minor part of my condition.

Dr. Chemo also took me off Tamoxifin for a 6-week trial period. Some of my complaints are possibly Tamoxifin side-effects, such as insomnia, hot flashes, and short-term memory loss. If I feel significantly better off the Tamoxifin, we will do hormone testing to see whether I can be switched to another drug.

This morning I had an abdominal MRI--following the condition of my liver. Results sometime next week. I asked the MRI tech to note for the radiologist that I have had invasive breast cancer, so that he knows (at least from my point of view) that one of the things s/he is looking for is metastatic cancer.

The dentist starts massive restoration work on my teeth tomorrow. My teeth have continued to erode. I am so dreading the word dentures. I have tried most of my life to take very good care of my teeth, and now.....

I really need a break from all of this. The calendar is chock full. Jim suggested that I might want to cut back on some of my counseling because of the time demands of the house project. That wasn't where I was going with my "I'm so busy" comments.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Happy Birthday--55!!

I was 55 yesterday. Last year about this time my brother Les and his wife Donna were here to visit for a week, feed me, and help around the house. Les called yesterday morning first thing with birthday wishes. He and Donna always remember because my birthday is the same day as their younger daughter's.

For my birthday, Jim gave me a lovely card, a lunch out, and a Nintendo DS Lite with the Brain Age game. I am hoping the game will work to put some of my cognitive functions back together. First I have to learn how to turn the darned thing on.

Jim and I were able to have a fairly low key day compared to how it's been lately. The reason for the recent ruckus around here? Jim has decided to buy into my house. We are starting some renovations on the house to make his living space handicapped friendly and accessible, preparing for the eventuality that that health may yet again pose a challenge for him.

We are turning his half bath into a full bath with a handicapped shower with 2 seats. That is probably the biggest part of the project because the floor is poured concrete that will require jackhammering to break into for the new sewer connections. The utility room off the bathroom will turn into a walk-in closet.

The single roomed dungeon will turned into a suite of sorts when the contractor places a custom built room divider between the "living" and "sleeping" areas. Improved lighting (with the electric panel upgraded to 200 amps), berber carpet, fresh paint throughout. We are going to bust out one double set of windows and the wall below them and replace them with a patio door. To do this, we have to have the exterior graded because the dungeon floor is about 3 inches below the outside grade.

Outside, we will have a paver patio built. It will have a handicapped ramp if needed. The patio will be covered with a roof, and there will be lighting and a ceiling fan installed there. Completing the outside work will be a paver walk around to the rear laundry door and an 8x12 shed to hold from the garage and utility room.

The final part of the project is the laundry room. Paint, shelving, lighting, a linoleum floor, and a portable handicapped ramp for the rear door.

For the contractor, we are using a fellow Jim grew up with. We have seen his work, and it's really good and creative. He's letting me get involved in the design end. My taste for this house runs to the Prairie/Mission style, and I am designing the layout of the wall divider, which will be a shelving/storage/drawer unit with a central feature of an aquarium. We have to start shopping the aquarium today so that the size of that item is all set.

This project (except for the patio door) hopefully will be finished in about a month/6 weeks.

Jim will have everything he needs down there except food. He will not HAVE to come up the steps to leave the house.

Separate from this project but affecting it is replacement of all windows in the house, except the fairly new Andersons in the Florida room. The old windows are original to this 55 YO house, with some really lousy storms. We will be getting vinyl replacement windows, the type with the tilt in sash. I have done alot of research on U factor, the rating element that indicates the amount of heat/cooling loss through the window. We are choosing a relatively high U factor window (although still within EnergyStar criteria) because it appeared to me that a lower/better U factor was not a value for the up-front cost.

We may also have a little exterior siding work done by the window company, which is a smaller family-owned business (thus leading to lower overhead and thus lower costs).

The window project, which includes the patio door, will begin in about 8 weeks and take about a week.

I had my interview with the SSDI-contracted psychologist this week. I went in pretty anxious, wanting to not do too well, but not really knowing where the cutoff might be between seeming impaired and seeming deceptive. After awhile, I just cut out that nonsense and tried my best. The psychologist said he was contracted to test whether I was capable of handling my own funds or whether I would need a trustee. That seems like bullshit. He was clearly giving me a cognitive function test. I felt pretty depressed when I left, but that was going to be the outcome regardless of what or how I did. It's all a matter of uncertainty.

I am getting closer to making an appointment to find a new plastic surgeon. My chest is getting increasingly uncomfortable from the scarring and the implant. I wonder if anyone can make me feel normal in that area again. There is numbness in places, tenderness in places, and tightness everywhere, including from the cording in my armpits. Right now I am eyeing Dr. Bernard Chang in Baltimore (he has a national reputation, having once been the head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins) and Dr. Topham at Fox Chase Cancer Center. I will then choose an oncologist at whatever facility I choose for the surgeon.

This week my psychiatrist raised my Lexapro (antidepressant) dosage to 20mg, the maximum. (I am also on Cymbalta.) I am just not sure how much biochemicals help with situational depression. Ann the talk therapist thinks we will be able to cut back to once every two weeks in September.