Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Just a Few Lines...

Just a few decades ago, when what we now refer to as "snail mail" was our main means of written communication, "Just a few lines...." would often begin our pen and paper missives to friends and relatives. Or, perhaps: "Dear... I hope you are well. Just a few lines to let you know...." Not very original but a helpful way to get started, pen in hand.

All of which was simply to say that these are just a few lines to record that my CT scan, last week, turned out better than my darkest doubts had imagined. A nurse, with directions from the oncologist, called me to say that the scan indicated that there have been no negative changes, in the chest, abdomen and pelvic areas, since my last scans. The problem in my left femur, causing pain-when-walking, has remained stable. I'd have liked that to have improved some, but am thankful for small mercies. The radiation oncologist (a different doctor) had indicated to me that, if requested, he would give the left hip/thigh area another shot or two of radiation. I am considering that option, will contact him for his further opinion after he, too, has seen the scan results.

I worried non-stop about those flippin' scan results! Drove myself into a bag of nerves during last weekend. I'm now feeling more relaxed (until the next time). I dread those kinds of waiting times; procedures I can deal with, it's the not knowing that really gets to me.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Stuff Done

The past week has seemed filled with "stuff to do" that was not sufficiently interesting to write about at length: follow-up appointment with radiologist (skin all healed well after radiation treatments in August). Dentist appointment for a filling. Appointment for a CT scan to discover whether any changes have taken place for good or ill during past 6 months. Haven't had result yet. Letters and numerous garbled phone calls about my grant towards cost of Ibrance medication running out. Efforts made to obtain a fresh grant. Finding a way to fax our last tax return in relation to the grant issue. Having faxed it, more garbled phone calls in relation to same. I say "garbled" because most of the time I cannot understand what the person at the other end of the line is saying. They are usually carrying out lists of routine contacts, gabbling their lines at top speed. I thought that it was an accent problem, but no, my husband has the same difficulty. Nobody is taught how to speak on the phone, in a professional way, these days - or if they are, the lessons are soon forgotten!

Then it was Hallowe'en.

We had only two trick or treaters this year, one of whom was my husband's great-granddaughter, Serenity, with her grandparents. It seems that the old-fashioned Hallowe'en customs have, at last, been overtaken by more communal and organised dress-up occasions care of churches, schools or other societies. It was an unusually cold evening here too, which didn't entice young visitors travelling on foot. Here is great-granddaughter Serenity, with husband and I - he got all dressed up for the occasion too. :)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Various Goings On


The weather here in southern Oklahoma is, at last, after days of temperatures in the 80s, acting in more autumnal fashion. Today it's actually cool to cold outside - 49 degrees, windy with a storm in the offing. The trees haven't yet donned their fall colours, after a few more of these cooler nights, it'll happen.



In other news, a routine blood test on 16 October, to discover how the targeted therapy medications are affecting my blood quality, showed that the white cell count was below desired minimum - same for platelets. Oncologist told me to take a second week off the Ibrance capsules - these are routinely taken for 21 days with 7 days off each month. This time I had 14 days off. Blood test yesterday showed figures had bounced back to an acceptable level, so off I go again with the Ibrance. I'm to have a CT scan next week - to check whether much has changed for good or for ill since my last scans around 6 months ago. Not looking forward to that!



The problems I had in obtaining a refill of my pain medication last month happily did not recur this time. Our usual pharmacy has changed their wholesaler. The medications I take for pain-while-walking now come from a different generic manufacturer. I was worried that these might be even less effective than those I've been taking, but, though it's a little early to be sure, I do suspect that these might be a tad more effective.




Further afield, Brexit bumbles on...and on....and on. When, oh when, oh when will it end? The part of it all that affects me personally is the currency exchange rate, it affects my two pensions coming from the UK. The rate has been volatile for a couple or more years, diving down then up, down again etc, depending on what had been Boris Johnson's or Ms May's latest failed attempts at bringing about a deal.



In the USA the season known as "The Holidays" is almost upon us. I'm glad to be here, still, to see it once again! Hallowe'en decor has been showing up for the past few weeks in front yards - ghosties, ghoulies and long leggedy beasties, spider webs and witches...you know the drill. We now await the Trick or Treaters on 31st of the month. We had very few last year - disappointing, because it's fun to see the imaginative costumes the kids come up with, and the excitement on the faces of the littlest ones. Perhaps the custom is starting to go out of fashion, for one reason or another - safety, perhaps, and many communal organised Hallowe'en costume events. Next up: Thanksgiving on 28 November, followed by You-Know-What-mas, a month later.
Ka-ching...ka-ching!



On the knitting front, I'm using a big skein of pink "ombre" tinted yarn to make another, longer scarf. It's something I can pick up and just knit, without need to refer to a pattern. I love seeing the changing shades of pink appear, apropos of which, I noticed that my husband is reading "The Secret Lives of Colour" by Kassia St Clair. I shall read it too, when he's done with it. Back-cover blurb: "From the scarlet women to imperial purple, from the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, from kelly green to acid yellow, the surprising stories of colour run like a bright thread through our history." Several varieties of pink are investigated, for example: Baker-Miller Pink; Mountbatten Pink, Puce, Fuchsia; Shocking Pink, Fluorescent Pink, and Amaranth. Maybe some of those will appear in my scarf.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Dribs and Drabs

I don't have much news right now, so a few links to recent internet items I enjoyed:


As well as loving the sight of a wee bear's antics (Who's been playing on my staircase?") I learned a new word: 'parkour'. For anyone else who is as out of the modern word loop as I am, here's some information about that word: https://www.britannica.com/sports/parkour.

Here's the article with a video included.

Bear Family Breaks Into Home And Cub Parkours Down The Staircase







A piece from Ian Welsh's blog might be of use to some of us - or even to all of us, in due course when, and if, things suddenly go haywire. (A general link to all of Ian Welsh's blog pages is among assorted links in the sidebar.)

Link:

https://www.ianwelsh.net/open-thread-and-preparing-for-power-outs/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+IanWelsh+%28Ian+Welsh%29







The Sartorialist has been a daily stop on my internet wanderings for many years. Recently the blog's presentation style has changed. Now we can see beaucoup street fashion instead of just one or two pieces of the master photographer's work per day. Commenting is no longer available on the blog page, but probably remains available on other parts of the net, into which I do not venture (Facebook, Instagram and suchlike).







Just a peek at the slippers I had begun knitting at the time of my previous post. They are not particularly stylish, but they are warm and good enough for keeping the tootsies comfortable while watching TV on a winter evening. Decoration will be changed when I can find something better - or try to make a couple of pom-poms to attach.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Two Needles... of the Non-Medical Variety

The photograph is evidence of what I've been doing lately to keep myself occupied, instead of regularly scribbling on the blog. I had been wondering whether I would be able to remember how to knit - even how to cast on the stitches with which to knit! In my younger years I used to knit a lot, sewed too, and embroidered. I left it all behind with the coming of a home computer, back in England. This, of course, opened the door to the internet tempting me with lots of different things to do.

A week or two ago I found a free knitting pattern on the internet for the scarf you see around my neck in the photo. I bought the recommended yarn and knitting needles online.

I had first learned how to knit in junior school, back in Hull, England - at around 6 or 7 years old. We were taught how to knit a cover for a wooden coat hanger. My Mum kept my rather clumsy cherry red effort in use, in her wardrobe, during the rest of her life. Mum was an expert Fair Isle knitter - something she had done in the evenings and nights during the long war years - so many fearful hours in Hull, waiting for the Air Raid siren; waiting more eagerly for the "All Clear!" Eventually Mum was able to add a little finesse to my basic, clunky, knitting ability. I never did reach her level of skill and patience to knit the beautiful intricate patterns of Fair Isle such as she produced. I loved wearing the oft-admired sweaters she knitted for me.

It turns out that knitting, basic knitting at least, is bit like riding a bike - one of those things you never forget how to do. With yarn and needles to hand I cast on X number of stitches with never a thought of "Now - how do I do this?"

The pattern of the scarf in the photo, said to be easy enough for beginners, was called "English Rib", though I've seen similar patterns elsewhere under different names. Hardest thing to remember, for me, was "am I on Row One or Row Two?" (of the simple 2-row pattern). After a couple of errors I got the hang of it. The scarf was finished rather quickly, thanks to thick yarn and fat needles.

I've just begun the piece of knitting I'm holding in the photograph. It is going to develop (I hope) into slippers, from a pattern available, free, in numerous places on the internet. The basic pattern is said to be "decades old", and very easy to do as the slippers are knitted flat. Pattern suggests using two strands at once of a certain type of yarn, something likely to slow me down, along with the choice of slimmer needles, but will produce more sturdy slippers. We shall see. Perhaps there'll be a photo later on, as evenings grow cooler at last, attesting to the viability of flat-knit wool-warm slippers.



A few knit-wise words from other ladies:

“Advice for New Knitters - When choosing a pattern, look for ones that have words such as "simple", "basic", and "easy". If you see the words "intriguing", "challenging", or "intricate", look elsewhere. If you happen across a pattern that says "heirloom", slowly put down the pattern and back away. "Heirloom" is knitting code for "This pattern is so difficult that you would consider death a relief".”
― Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.
“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
― Elizabeth Zimmerman.

“She was passionate about knitting because it allowed her to reach a state of peacefulness, and she loved to embroider because it let her express her creativity. Both activities were liberating. They allowed her to exist outside of time.”
― Laura Esquivel, Pierced by the Sun.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Grouch, Grumble, Whine....

A frustrating and tiring few days put me in a dark mood this week.

Acquiring a refill of my pain medication - a generic of the brand Norco - is becoming more difficult by the month. I obtained the paper prescription, signed in ink by my temporry oncologist, as required now by law when medications involving opioids are refilled. We took the prescription to the pharmacy we've used for the past 15 years. On being presented with the written prescription the rather unhelpful young lady at the drop-off counter told me "Sorry we can't fill that, we are getting a new wholesaler and we have none in stock. You'll have to go to another pharmacy." "Well", said I, "I could wait for a day or two, I still have a some tablets left. Would you have the medication available in a few days' time?" "No, we don't know when, or if, we'll have them". A bit fishy, that!

We drove to CVS pharmacy just across the road, to be told by a kindly young guy at their drop-off desk. "Sorry, we're all out of those tablets, people coming from the pharmacy across the road have cleaned us out. We might have some by early next week. I'd try Walgreens - not Walmart as they'd likely send you away as you're not a regular customer."

Onward to Walgreens. These pharmacy visits entail a fair amount of walking, and I, the painfully walking wounded one, was not delighted by the fact that pharmacy counters in the large stores are right at the back, farthest away from the entrances - so lots of painful steps for me. Even dosed up with the pain pills, using a quad-cane, walking far is not easy for me.

Walgreens, after checking my identity and Medicare details, seemed willing to fill my prescription. They were very busy - lines forming at the pick-up and drop-of counters all the time. They said to come back to pick up the tablets in around 45 minutes. We returned over an hour later. Medications not yet ready for me, so we decided to wait until the next day to collect - to avoid yet another trail to the back of the store that day. Later on, a phone call from the pharmacist at Walgreens told me that I would need the doctor's further authority for the number of pills required by the prescription. (I'd have thought that the prescription itself was that authority!) The doc had allowed for 8 tablets per day (for a month) instead of 6 per day. New regulations mean that extra authority from the doctor will be required for that amount of tablets. I told the pharmacist that, as I take only 6 tablets per day, could he please just fill the prescription for that amount? He agreed to do this, and changed the number of pills stated on the prescription. So, yet another trip to Walgreens the next day, though with rested legs.
At last, I had the tablets in my hot sticky hands. I say hot and sticky advisedly. It was around 95 degrees in town during these adventures, adding to my annoyance and discomfort.

I had hoped that Walgreens might deal with a different generic manufacturer than the one used by our usual pharmacy. Sadly no, that didn't happen - same generic manufacturer, who shall remain nameless. I am convinced, as are many people online, that the generic of Norco made by this particular manufacturer is not as effective as the brand medication itself, or pills made by several other generic manufacturers. It is thought, by regular users of this medication, that not long after December 2017, when panic erupted over deaths by addiction to opioids in the USA, especially in Oklahoma, the effectiveness of these tablets as pain relief medication took a nosedive. Those who had been taking the medication before and after the opioid crisis suspect that some manufacturers have adjusted make-up of these tablets, possibly by changing additional ingredients used in their manufacture. I suspect (a wild guess on my part) that the way the tablets were being used by addicts for purposes other than pain relief, may have been the reason for change. Addicts crushed the tablets. Perhaps some generic manufacturers added an ingredient to prevent easy crushing which, in turn, could also prevent proper digestion of the pain-relieving ingredients. So those of us who genuinely need pain relief go to the back of the queue, we don't matter!

Pain relief from the pills, for me, is minimal but better than nothing. Morphine at the strengths tried already brings even less relief. I'll be asking the temporary oncologist, next time I see him, if there's something else I could try. I'd buy the brand name Norco tablets, even just to try, if they weren't so ridiculously expensive - in the order of $500 + per month!

Whinge, whinge, grouch and grumble! A wheelchair beckons!