Saturday, April 01, 2017

Warm Enough

 It appears that Winter just sorta gave up shortly after the first of the year and Spring came rushing on in.  Not that I'm complaining about no cold weather, mind you.  But it has been pretty weird.  We did not get the flooding rains we always do around the end of December/ mid-January.  We got some heavy rains but none even close to what I have recorded every year since living here.  Despite all that, we have made up a good deal of the terrible drought this area was in.  I think we are listed as still in a 'slight' drought, but not anything near what it was.
Most things have bloomed out already but a few things, like my forsythia bushes, did not bloom at all.  They just went straight to leaf. Very odd.  The dogwoods started blooming in March. I think that is a first.  It's so nice now that I'm tempted to go ahead and set out some warm weather crops but I'll control myself.  We may be in for a frost next week.  I have got all the spring crops in though!  Very excited about that and even have a good crop of broccoli that I managed to start from seed!! That's also a first. lol!

I have felt well enough since being on the new meds to do some hardscaping too!  I have put this off way, waaaaaayyy too long but have it finished now.  Just need more fill dirt.  It's the main entrance to the garden in case you can't figure it out.  I always assume people know what these photos are of and you can't do that! Anyway, I poured a concrete curb to finish the boundary of the brick paver pad, dug out a bunch of dirt and replaced with gravel and crushed limestone fill.  Packed that and then laid the remainder of the pavers.  The block coming off at right angles is the beginning of gravel paths that will go around the entire garden perimeter to form a flower/ herb bed on the outside edge.  Make sense?

 Jack built the little herb bed right here (where you see a few little things planted) and then I went from there.  Nothing is flat around here so I have to step or terrace everything.  The pavers are sand-set by the way.

 Little bit different angle.  I was very pleased with how it came out. When the garden soil and gravel paths are filled in there will not be quite that big off a drop from the paver elevation. Maybe only an inch or two.

 A real nice, older gentleman down the road has let us have use of his backhoe.  I did some welding for him on a couple of occasions and I guess he was pleased so he told me if I wanted any of his old equipment that he didn't use anymore to just ask.  I wasn't really sure he was serious but I said, Sure, I'll take that old backhoe if you ever want to get rid of it!  He said, Okay! Haha! I was kinda flabbergasted.  At first he said he's sell it and then he just said, if you can get it running (it's pretty old) that we could just use it however much we wanted.  Just keep it running and not tear it up.  Good deal!  Jack and Allen got it going and drove it over to my place, where it promptly died.  But Allen can get most any machine going again and he got it running enough to get up to his place next and then fixed it up a lot.  It runs pretty good now and we are taking turns doing a good bit of landscaping.  Will sure save me a chunk of money when I go to dig the footings for the next half of the house.  No, I don't have the means for building that yet but it must happen at some point.

 I repaired a larger bucket that came with it and we put that on.  This was a complete break and separation here but me and Allen worked with it and got it closed up enough I could get a good weld going.  For the most part, if I can step across it I can weld it.  lol!  And you believe that, right?  That's a very, very old brag for a welder.  And no, I will not give up welding.  I do weld now with a respirator and/ or a stiff wind blowing across me and will do so as long as I can hold my hands still enough to run a bead.

The violets are especially pretty this year and very, very prolific.  My herbalist friend came to visit the other day and told me how to make a syrup from them to sooth my lungs and throat.  I have a lot of issue now with coughing and hoarseness.  This is common with PD and it's very frustrating.  Hopefully this syrup will help a little.
Well, like I said, I am feeling better but still not quite up to my old days.  I hurt a lot and have a lot of stiffness all along my right side.  I joked that my left side is too loose and shakes and my right side is too tight and hurts! I'm slower than I used to be due to this but I'm still chugging along.  Mainly I want to do stuff and am excited about things again.  I can take some pain in exchange for that.  I'll try to get back soon with maybe some progress in the garden and maybe even the kitchen!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Shake It Off

Hey!!  I'm actually back here in less than 2 months!!  Woo!  I'm on a roll now!  Actually, I told ya'll I would try to post again soon because I felt I would have an update in the next couple of weeks...and I do.  Back in late October I went back to my primary doctor for some new blood work and then in February went back once more after new symptoms and issues became very troublesome.  I will go ahead and tell you that I have been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
Now, I am going to explain the issues here and this post may be long but I'm doing this for a specific reason.  1.  In case the information may help someone else and ...2. To clarify things for the few folks that read my blog and actually know me in real life.  I want it to be very clear that this is NOT something I just pulled out of my ass and one day decided, hey, I'm gonna have Parkinson's.  Trust me, I don't want this crap disease.  And yes, there is a real reason I'm making this clarification but that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Ya'll know for about 2 years I strongly felt that I just had arthritis of some sort. I had many symptoms that went along with that; pain, stiffness, etc.  Arthritis runs in my family.  A couple of the doctors I saw said, yes, it's possible.  The hitch was, though, that every time they did an X-ray etc. they would all say the same thing..."there is some small erosion/ degradation in your joints but it just doesn't seem like enough to validate the amount of pain you are describing".  I heard this several times.  Plus, my blood work just didn't back it up.  In fact, when I did go back in October my sed rates were perfectly normal and inflammation markers were as low as they measure.  I was like, wth?  Well, by February I was having all new issues.  I couldn't swallow food well.  I didn't necessarily get choked but the food just would not go down often times.  No matter how much liquid I tried to wash it down with and all that.  A few times it got kinda scary.  The pain and stiffness I've had in my hips/ rear end area started moving up into my right shoulder and arm and down into my feet.  Within 2 weeks my shoulder had become so stiff I had trouble getting my shirts on and off.  The tremor in my left hand also became much more noticeable at times and often moved down into my left foot if I got upset.  And I was getting upset a lot.  Sometimes about stuff that didn't really seem to warrant that kind of anger when I thought about it later.  I have no doubt that many of you all noticed that some of my posts over the last year or so often sounded angry or very frustrated.  There are a number of other issues; gastrointestinal, etc. that I just will leave at that....One reason I haven't posted much is because typing had become pretty difficult due to my hands jerking or just feeling like I couldn't control them.  I drop stuff constantly.  My handwriting also became smaller at times and would run down the page, no matter how much I tried to control it. Something just seemed very wrong.  I did look up some stuff and that's when I saw the connection between muscle stiffness/ pain and Parkinson's and the fact it most often presents it's self in your shoulders and moves across into the neck area, along with several other of the new issues I was experiencing (trouble swallowing etc.). Most people think of the tremor as being the main thing but it's not always.  This would really explain why no pain or arthritis meds ever helped me. 

There is no definitive blood or imaging test for Parkinson's, unfortunately.  Basically, if you have the symptoms and have exhausted all other possibilities, which I had, then they simply give you a dopamine agonist drug and if that helps, you have PD.  Most of these drugs are not used to treat much else, so it's pretty conclusive.  In reading I discovered that there is a natural dopamine supplement that you can get over the counter and one neurologist in a forum I was studying said a few of his patients used it with good results.  So.  I ordered some and started taking it.  Sure enough, within 7 or 8 days many of my issues had improved significantly.  With these results I emailed the neurologist on the forum, told him all this info and asked him..."Do you think that it is a reasonable thing to think this could be Parkinson's?" .  He said  'Yes, that if the L-dopa helped, then I "most likely had Parkinson's, unfortunately."  I took this info back to my primary doc and also noted to him that I had 2 uncles with Parkinson's (they were brothers) and that I had been a welder for 27 years.  He did a little exam and said a visit to a neurologist was warranted, with the strict orders I also tell the new doctor my family history and that I was a welder.  I then emailed the great doc I had gone to at UAB, explained to him my findings and that I was trying to get in to see a neurologist in the St. Vincent's system. (My insurance basically told me that they were one of the few systems I could go to.  They now considered UAB to be too expensive.)  Anyway.  This doc emailed me back and said he could agree with that diagnosis and offered to help me get in to see either of 2 colleagues that he really liked. I took him up on that offer and quickly got an appointment with the one closer to me.

March 2 I went to see this neurologist.  I liked him a lot.  He was very thorough, we talked for about an hour.  He did 2 physical exams and on some of the balance stuff I was all over the place and I have a bit of neuropathy in both feet. He actually called the doctor at UAB during my visit and consulted with him for a while, came back in and we talked some more with a few more exercises for me to do.  At approximately 10:00 a.m. on that Thursday morning he gave me an official diagnosis of Parkinson's and prescribed Mirapex for me.  This drug is only used to treat PD and restless leg syndrome and as you can see...the label clearly states what he prescribed it to me for.  He also told me to continue the L-dopa supplement if I wanted to, since it had helped and what I really liked....he greatly advocates exercise as an effective treatment and also suggested I consider boxing therapy!  Apparently they have had very good results with such and it sounds fun.  You don't actually box another person but simply use the hanging bag and it also includes jumping rope, running and lots of balance related boxing training.

So.  There you go.  It sucks.  I will admit I bawled my eyes out after talking to the first 2 doctors and ended up blubbering about not wanting to lose my mind.  Since PD is the drastic loss of dopamine to the brain there is a heavy mental aspect to it.  By the time I was actually diagnosed I had sort of calmed down and wasn't crying anymore.  One thing my new doctor tried to emphasis with me is that Parkinson's progresses very, very slowly for most people and it is not fatal within itself.  Both my uncles lived to be in their late 80s.

So.  Yes, I am very glad to finally have an answer despite the fact the answer sucks wind.  Yes, I am very glad it's not cancer and it's not going to kill me.  However, the idea of having a disease that is slowly destroying my brain and for which there is no cure (unlike some forms of cancer) is not the happiest thought and the ol' "well, at least it's not cancer" response is probably not the best thing to say to someone you know that has just been diagnosed with something like this.

I have noticed a bit of improvement in many of my symptoms already...eating is not so scary anymore I'll tell ya that!  Although I move more slowly and it takes me a while to do stuff, I have felt much more like doing things and have made some nice progress in the garden lately that I'll show ya'll later.  Just having some of the apathy and brain fog lifted is worth a LOT.  I still have a great deal of pain but am hopeful this will get better now.  I will try to post here more often now.  For one, I hope to be doing more to actually have something to post about.  Secondly, I have an easier time typing now....for the most part.  Some days I'm off a little and have more of an issue with the tremors but lots of days are better as far as that goes.  So, thanks for reading and I appreciate all your comments as usual.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring (Among The Living)

 Hey, folks...!  Yes, I am still amongst the living...I did not even realize that I had not made one post this year... I mean, I knew it had been a while but sorta shocked to see that.  My header photo is out of date and everything...

 Spring is basically here as you can tell.  An odd year for sure but we have been enjoying the warm weather.  What more can you do?

 This is going to just be a photo heavy post for now.  I'll have more updates and info in a couple of weeks.

 Just wanted to let ya'll know I was still around and had not given up completely on the blog.  Close...but not completely.
 A big thank you to those that emailed me over the winter to check on me...I really appreciate hearing from anyone.  I'm not able to get out a lot these days and I enjoy hearing from folks.

 Was a tad windy today at times when I took these!

 A lot of these are of the new girls that are now just about grown and are getting to enjoy their first days out in the yard with the big girls.  We've been letting them have the run of the fenced garden since there is not much of anything planted there now but that will change soon.  Very soon.

 The big, or I should say... older girls, have been enjoying going into the garden too and having baths in the raised beds.  That will also end soon.  Big Bertha and Ms. Bea both passed away during the winter.  I think Bertha's old heart just gave out.  She was about 9 years old.  She spent a happy day out in the yard like normal  and then went into the coop for bed.  She just laid down in the floor and died.  She and BeaBea were really close, and close in age also, and less than 3 weeks later Ms. Bea just quit eating.  She looked healthy as could be but she just quit.  I tried various meds and food but she wasn't having it.  She just wanted to go on and be with Bertha and Scooter again I guess.  I put her in a nesting box one night because I didn't think she would last much longer and she had passed away the next morning when Jack went to let them out. Both of them just seemed to drift off to sleep and not wake up.

 The new girls are a rambunctious bunch though~!  Into everything and very smart.  Took them less than a hour to find the house and basement, along with all the treats..on the first day we let them out into the yard.  And, at only 4 months old, one or two of the Red Stars are already laying!  None of those little pullet eggs either....they just popped on out the big, real deals!

 So, anyways....I'll be back after  while..

Hope everyone out there is doing well and enjoying nice weather too.