Health


Insomnia spooky5.JPG

Insomnia (Photo credit: Buddha Rhubarb)

While there is no cause I can pinpoint, I had a night of interrupted by stupid insomnia again.

Doctors have been unhelpful in the extreme. They tell me it is “aging”. Drink some tea. Meditate. All quite useless.

It’s not as bad as it was prior to the discovery that I am indeed suffering from “female issues” of an aging lady variety, but sleeplessness is not an option for someone who has to be up before the dawn to put a kid on a school bus and pack a husband off to work.

Making breakfast, packing lunches and making sure that the bus does indeed arrive to convey the child has me up and conscious just long enough to make it difficult to impossible to go back to bed for a couple more hours.

This leaves me with days like today. Walking not quite dead. Feeling as though I am just coming down with or just getting over a messy bout with influenza.

Insomnia is nothing new for me. I have never been a good sleeper.

As a wee one, I gave up naps quite early, was a night owl and an early riser and generally seemed able to run on six or seven hours of shut eye without much trouble. No lounging in bed til noon as a general rule for me as a teen or young adult. And though I developed a bit of a napping habit in my early 30’s, it wasn’t a consistent one but more about the weather, which meant that on wintry or raining Sunday afternoons, you might catch me napping but otherwise – not.

Pregnancy and early motherhood were bad for sleep, but that’s true for a lot of women.

I didn’t sleep well the first year of widowhood either, but I blame that more on physical issues than emotional ones.

Now, it’s just a piss poor schedule combined with that old lady thing and the fact that we have really inconsiderate neighbors.

Age has screwed with my internal temperature regulation.

It’s too hot. Or it’s too cold. More cold than warm during the day and the opposite over night.

Who knew you could get cold flashes?

Our neighbors are a railroad siding, a guy who finds it necessary to start his truck even morning at 6 AM and leave it idle for 15 minutes – right underneath our bedroom window, and an elderly woman across the alley who, rather than listen to her equally elderly dogs shuffle and bark at her all night, puts them outside so her neighbors can listen to them shuffle and bark all night.

Once I am awake, I am awake for a solid hour or more.

In the past, I have  panicked about not getting back to sleep and this just made it take longer to get back to sleep.

Now I am more sanguine. Not happy however. I know what a loss of two hours in the middle of the night means for the next day.

It means I accomplish next to nothing and I get to feel like shit in the bargain.

Oh, I have my folk remedies. Although tea makes me pee and melatonin has to be used in moderation lest one feel just as groggy and wiped out as the insomnia leaves one.

I have a heating pad for cold flashes and muscle aches (another thing those books on “aging” don’t mention but should) and ice packs for overheating.

Mattress is newer and foam-topped. Sheets are a primo thread count.

But still, I endure days like this several times a month.

When my mother, and then Rob’s mother, were visiting recently, I noted that neither of them could sleep through the night. Mom is 80 and MIL is 71. A glimpse of my future that is bleaker than the creakiness, the sagging skin and the humpbacks.

I don’t recall my Dad having such a time sleeping, but since he went to bed by 7PM and was up by 5AM most days from about age 65 on, I don’t know that I can glean much from his example.

So much about getting older in this year I make my slow approach to 50 is depressing.

It’s not that I expect the true middle of middle age to be the new 40 or 30 or some such other nonsense, but does it have to be such a chore all the time?


English: Alberta Health Services logo from vis...

… in which case, it’s a hodge-podge of incredible inconvenience, outdated ideas and control freak issues.

One of the reasons I wait to go to the doctor until I absolutely can’t home remedy myself to semi-functionality is that the system created by Alberta Health, and zealously overprotected by the medical profession here, sucks sweaty donkey balls.

Factoring access issues out (because family doctors – who are the gatekeepers to all other doors unless you opt to simply brave the emergency room), the main problem is timeliness coupled with time sucking runaround.

Back in Iowa, I could call my doctor’s office and generally get in to see her the same day. X-ray and lab were on site, so there was never a need to run about the city and diagnosis or action plan was meted out at the same appointment.

If I needed to see another doctor or have additional tests, it happened within a couple of weeks. Only rarely did one wait a month or more during the diagnostic phase. A good thing because though most issues are minor and not life-threatening, one can’t really know this for sure in the initial stages. Timely diagnosis is more than a little bit crucial. And so is treatment – depending.

Here it is a very different story. Nothing is on site at the doctor’s office. Nothing.

X-rays? They send you over to queue up at the hospital behind in-patients and the rabble choking the ER.

Blood tests? There is a lab at the hospital and a private lab over by the Starbucks. The doctor will get back to you with the results in a few days. Maybe.

Need a referral? Sometimes the PCN, which is the overlord of the system, will be notified and when the scheduling nurse gets to your referral (they will tell you to call PCN if you haven’t heard anything in a month’s time), she/he will call the office of the doctor you’ve been referred to and set up the appointment for you. You are notified and then asked if the time works. You will make the time work because rescheduling will only throw you further down the list.

Once you have been seen by a doctor, you are theoretically allowed to call and schedule further appointments for yourself. Or not. Sometimes, it’s back to the referral mill for you.

Which is where I am.

My doctor easily granted the referral I needed and told me she’d fax it that same afternoon. However, when I called this morning to make the appointment, the receptionist informed me that, “We don’t take faxes. Only phone calls. Your doctor will have to phone us.”

Which won’t happen. Doctors don’t make their own phone calls. The PCN does it for them. So instead of possibly snagging an appointment in early September, which is where the bookings for the doctor I need to see are currently, it could be October or November because I am now relegated to PCN nurse scheduling hell. Phone tag and “no, that day doesn’t work”.

What doctor doesn’t use fax? Or email. Or e-script to pharmacies?

Doctors in Alberta, that’s who.

Is this the 21st century? Because it is in Iowa and has been for the past decade and a bit. I – O – W – A! When you are more backwards than a corn belt state in the Midwest of the United States, it’s time to be concerned.

Every doctor in Alberta is physically welded to a laptop, but that’s as far as the future goes. Everything else is 1970’s. This includes office decor and hospital rooms. Going to the hospital or doctor’s office here is like stepping back into my childhood pediatrician’s clinic (which housed an x-ray, lab and multiple specialists under the same roof – back in 1971).

I am half-way tempted to just say “fuck it” and see if my sister, DNOS, can’t get me an appointment with her doctor when I am visiting next month.

This is ridiculous bullshit. Our tax dollars pay these people and Rob’s paycheck is docked considerably to purchase the supplemental insurance which keeps us from, among other things, having to beg for pharma samples. A lot of money goes to the cause of the Alberta Health System treating us like inconveniences between them and their provincial paychecks.

On bright side, the odds of my current physical woes being fatal are low. Not nothing. But low. As a Canadian, I am supposed to rejoice in that because “at least I won’t lose my house like people in the States do”, which is a fallacy for another day.

UPDATE (July 16) – Four phone calls to the office of DR I need to see, and three reminder calls to the DR who is referring me late, and I still have no appointment. And there’s no way around this. The local network that “controls” this section of the province is only a database that would – at best – point me to yet another gate keeper to restart the referral process. If Rate My MD is to be believed, the vast majority of my other local choices really suck. The guy I want to see is the best going even if he has zero personality and less bedside manner than is typical even for here. At this point, the only way to speed things up would be to just park in the ER where – at minimum – I would at least get the tests I need and some sort of confirmation as to whether my issue is trivial or something that needs more investigating.  We leave for holiday inside the month and a quick Google of my Iowa hometown revealed that despite having a population of just under 58,000, it boasts as many specialty DR’s of the type I need to see as the area where I live, which is approaching 1,000,000, give or take. Worse case is, according to my sister, I could easily be seen and screened over our three week stay. I’d rather not do that. I am Canadian enough at this point to look down my nose at the sort of person who queue jumps or, worse, flaunts their economic privilege by heading south of the border. It’s one thing to get your dental work done in Mexico when you winter over in the American Southwest or take a winter siesta from Canada’s winter, but quite another to use the US healthcare system. However, I am a little bit worried and my husband is more so. His past experiences with “the system” are more unpleasant than mine, and I would prefer he not have to go through anything similar with me. Today I am feeling stoic (though I came close to tears when talking with the refDR’s receptionist), and I will give it another day or so. All bets are off after that. Patience is a seldom rewarded virtue in the diagnostic stage of unknown medical issues. I learned that quickly when my late husband was stricken. Squeaky wheels inspire momentum if only to get you moving quickly to the next leg of the journey so that you are someone else’s pain in the ass.


I feel like crap. And it’s getting old.

Spanish flu notice

Image via Wikipedia

Rob brought home some creepy crud flu-like thing a few weeks ago, and foolishly I caught it from him. It’s one of those insidious not quite bad enough to send you to the doctors but just awful enough to keep you from getting through the day upright things.

It started last Thursday evening, We attended a work function for Rob’s company. Swanky old-school railroad hotel in town with the dinner you follow the utensil tray from the outside in to eat. During the main course, I suddenly felt faint. Just whoosh. I don’t know what kept me from nose diving into the mashed potatoes and I was seriously worried about how I would make it to the door if I needed to make a quick dash for the ladies’ washroom.

But several glass of water and a cup of tea later, I managed a dignified exit and then shivered all the way to the vehicle and half-way home.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday found me in bed for several hours with ice packs on my eyes and zonked.

Sore throat, light-headed, swollen glands, tight chest with the most unproductive cough ever and the sorest ribs. Not to mention arms and legs that ached from top to nails.

And my armpits hurt?!

Tuesday I felt a tad better. Went to yoga in the AM. Taught yoga in the PM. In between I worked on writing and homework for a class I am taking. Yesterday, I wrote until the afternoon before heading into town to pick up Dee and take her to pottery. And then I was done. It hit and ramped up until I was forced to take to my bed early last evening.

I was up a bit this morning but I can hear the bed calling.

I hate being sick. Especially sick enough that I have to pay attention and do something about it. I am hoping to avoid the doctor. Cures are worse than illness and I still haven’t completely resigned myself to the Canadian healthcare system, but I couldn’t drive myself to town if I wanted to as bad as I feel.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, it’s because I am curled in a fetal position but hopefully not dead.


Sweet Potato, Celery, Ginger and Orange Juice 3of3

Image by Food Thinkers via Flickr

It’s day two of a juice fast that I foolishly suggested to my husband a few weeks ago. We’d meant to do and be done with it before our holiday before the May Long weekend, but time, space and another plague kept us from it. So I find myself juicing and hungry today.

For me, it’s day three of limited intake. The “rules” of the fast stipulate that a person should slowly eliminate foods from the diet and gradually decrease intake for about a week-ish prior to juicing. I held back on Monday and journeyed into yesterday with a half-empty tummy.

As I packed Rob off to work yesterday, I did my best imitation of a cheerleader,

“Aren’t you excited?” I said. “At the end of the week, you’ll feel light and revitalized. All those toxins flushed away.”

He regarded me quietly. His tummy rumbling in protest against a breakfast of orange juice and herbal tea.

“I don’t feel excited,” he said. “I feel hungry.”

By lunch, when we spoke again, it was, “I don’t care about being light or ridding myself of toxins anymore.”

And by the time he strolled in for dinner, “I am betting whatever smells really good isn’t the juice we are having for dinner.”

It wasn’t. I’d made veggie chilli for Dee.

“Why does she get to eat?” he asked.

“Dad! I’m too little to juice fast,” she chimed in quickly because the child’s self-interest is never far from the surface.

“Sweetie,” I needlessly pointed out, “she’s barely 50 lbs soaking wet. She can barely sleep through the night without chewing her own foot off.”

“A likely excuse,” he grumbled as she souped and he slurped back another glass of green goo.

Later at Dee’s soccer game, he asked,

“So, how long are we juicing?”

“Until Friday.”

“What?! Who decided this? I’ll be the husk of man by Friday.”

“You decided,” I reminded him.

“I think not.”

“Yes,” and I dug back in my memory for the tape of the conversation that basically had me pointing out that we should fast a couple of days and him over-ruling me in favor of the end of the week.

“I don’t recall it that way,” he said.

“Can you say that with certitude?” I asked.

When I spoke to him today right around lunch, he sounded like Frodo as he was slipping into the land of the Ring Wraiths.

“We can quit tomorrow night,” I offered. “Jade says that the body knows when we should eat food again and it should be listened to.”

“No,” he replied listlessly, ” I am committed.”

And I am involuntarily so.


A 2010 Girardin MB-II school bus belonging to ...

Image via Wikipedia

I am not getting enough sleep. And if the light-headed space cadet feeling wasn’t clue enough, shoulder blades melting into lock-down is a red alert.

It’s partly my own fault. Spending time with Rob is priority, and with renovation, his lengthening work day, and kid things keeping us both busy, we tend to make up the us time by stealing from the Sandman, but we pay a heavy toll.

However, even when we do manage to get to bed at an admittedly relative decent hour, there is still the matter of the 6 A.M. wake-up call.

This morning it was the neighbor’s diesel truck roaring to life, but it could have just as easily been the yellow school bus that also revs up at an ungodly early hour. It’s not a new issue, but as the end of the school year still eludes us by well over two months, I am past exhausted with this slumber interrupter.

And there is little that can be done. Because I like the neighbors. Dee plays with their children and they are pleasant and not in any way objectionable as people, which is so refreshing for me I am loath to disturb the wake of that boat even just a little.

Most of my adult life has been spent in active avoidance of my neighbors. They have been National Inquirer noisy, demanding, obnoxious, creepy, drug-addled, dangerous, criminal and lecherous. There was the guy who lived below me who came in every night at 3 with his buddies and cranked up the television, which ended with a screaming match between us that woke the entire building but put an end to his party apartment ways.

I lived across the hall from a drug dealer, whose customers thudded up and down the stairs all night long, and I lived underneath a girl who liked to do her aerobics at midnight.

At university, my first apartment was shared with the hands down winner of bat-shit craziest roommate ever and our next door neighbors appeared to dine regularly on something that smelled like wet matted dog fur, a situation I only improved slightly when I moved into the next apartment – right next door to a frat house.

My first house was sandwiched between two middle-aged married lechers, who made it nearly impossible for me to do my yard-work in peace.

The house I owned before moving here had me contending with hostile Stepford wives because my lawn was tidy to the impossible suburban standards and exposed me yet again to an alcoholic pervert in the adjacent lot, who ironically was someone who teased me mercilessly about my weight when we went to the same junior high.

Making nice with neighbors was not a high priority when I moved here. Rob is not exactly gregarious and keeps interactions to the minimum he can get away with and those he knew also knew Shelley, so they were polite and distant, but after four years, and with Dee out and about, I have gotten to know a lot of people around here. Teaching yoga at the community hall has made me a known quantity even beyond the block.

And I like it.

Sure, I wish the renter across the alley was a better pet owner because that dog of hers barks all the time, and the guy at the end of the next street who lets his dogs live in the house while he occupies the garage give me pause, but most people are pleasant and good-hearted.

So I don’t really want to make an issue of the school bud or diesel truck. I don’t want to be “that” neighbor. The picky princess one.

But, gawd, I am tired and can’t wait for summer to come and the big yellow bus to be mothballed.


The change in ribs

Image via Wikipedia

They say that chest pains should never be ignored. Rob refused to give his credence and look what happened. He could easily have died last summer.

So when I woke with chest pains in the wee hours Wednesday morning, I debated about 5 minutes before waking Rob.

I’d been seeing a physical therapist for rib pain that I thought stemmed from a neck/shoulder injury and just really bad desk ergonomics, but the pain I felt at 4 A.M. was across the top of the chest mainly and in the breastbone, so off we went to the E.R.

The E.R. in the Fort is a dicey proposition. The doctors are hit/miss in terms of interest and bedside manner and the nursing staff even mores so. But we lucked out, and there were just three other patients already in rooms when there could just as easily have been sick folk packing the lobby and stacked in the hallway like cord wood.

The doctor was foreign. They are all foreign. I don’t think white people pursue medical careers in Canada. And he was very young. My own doctor is Indian and not even as old as Edie. As a result, I am not quite sure if I am simply being imprecise with my description of what ails me or they are working from different English grammar book than the one I used to teach 7th graders with. Regardless, I always end up feeling frustrated and cut off, but eventually, the Dr. Ali Baba seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

Part of the problem was that I couldn’t fix on what the pain felt like other than it hurt and the doctor and nurses kept trying to spin what I was saying to match up with their checklists.

But Dr. Ali Baba did at least exam me. Canadian doctors so rarely look up from their laptops, let alone put them down and lay hands on you that I am beginning to wonder if they have divine powers.

Diagnosis? Costochondritis. An inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone. It can result from injury or from overuse or as a result of a chest infection. I am three for three on all counts this last six weeks.

Prescription?

“Rest your torso,” Dr. Ali Baba said.

As the torso makes up, well, pretty much everything that isn’t appendage, I am struggling with that and the contradiction …

“And also exercise and stretch.”

The nurse came in with a trainee who then was allowed to practice on me. The doctor ordered an injection of an anti-inflammatory which hurt probably more than the inflammation, and after it kicked in – we were cut loose.

Dee, naturally, had to be awakened from a sound sleep for our trip in. To her credit she was a trooper and betrayed not even the slightest bit of worry. She gets that from Rob.

Rob dubbed me an “official crisis weenie” though because I was a bit more than a little freaked out.

Well, duh. It was chest pains and he nearly died last summer.

But, I am a marathon girl not a sprinter, I need time to adjust and slip back into sanguine. Perhaps I should look for that meditation teacher and build up my calm muscles?

Yesterday then, and today still, I feel worse than I have for a week. I am propping myself in front of the infrared heat lamp and getting ready to sauna again before lying down to read on the heating pad. I have to teach yoga tonight, and I need to build up a bit of ease in the trunk, but in all likelihood, my students might spend the entire class prone.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time. Drywalling looms and Rob was counting on me at least to be his helper for the duration because the older girls and Sliver have limited time off to help.

In yoga, they say that injury is a sign to slow down. When one is moving too fast and doesn’t recognize the subtle signs that leisure and contemplation are necessary, it whacks you. And I won’t deny that I have been thinking and pondering changes and that be more mindful and leisurely would help facilitate the process. So, universe, duly noted.

But the ribs? Seriously. A little carpal tunnel wouldn’t have been done just as well?

 


Dead Snow Angel

Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Nagging health issues continue to plague me and keep me from focusing on writing in specific and general. I rouse myself for the occasional pet issue here and there about the web, but I haven’t written for the paying gig in about a month and am still mentally sorting through ideas for a longer offline project. Like winter, I guess, I am all about the hibernating and waiting.

Ruminating before leaping is not out of character for me. Really. When it appears as if I am pouncing like a rabid werewolf, it’s only because I’m unleashing on a subject that’s been throughly hashed out in my mind and is, in fact, an older than dirt topic for me.

New things? I window shop with glacial intent.

For example? I made a purchase via Old Navy last week. Yoga togs that I eyeballed near daily for over a month before committing to them.

So in matters of writing, I am more James Joyce than twit blogger.

Aches and pains and the fact that navigating a Canadian healthcare system designed more to befuddle and irritate than be helpful adds to my general lack of forward momentum.

Doctors don’t listen. Test results meander their way from one part of the labyrinth to another, and helpful insights like “it’s probably not cancer” add to the stress.

On the only bright side, today, an appointment with the physio went surprisingly well. As I go to each appointment with expectations one could sweep a floor with, finding a healthcare professional who makes eye contact in addition to being able to let a person finish a sentence or more without interrupting is positively soul cuddling.

My thoracic back, left shoulder and neck are totally fucked up though not in a unfixable way. Huzza.

And, it’s stopped snowing. No telling how long this will last but there is actual sunshine and the wind isn’t slicing through the house.

Which brings me to the house.  No, the reno is not done, and both Rob and I are weary past words of the whole thing. Drywalling may commence this weekend if he keeps up the same pace with wiring and plumbing but between my totally fucked back and iffy neck/shoulder and his recent gout attack – well – sigh*.

Dee chomps at the bit to be allowed to help but at nearly four feet tall and not 50 lbs drenched, she falls short of being useful.

Here is the worst thing right now – the hamster wheel effect. Since Christmas at least, it’s as if there is not one iota of difference from yesterday to tomorrow. I am Bill Murray living the same day over and over. People jet off to warmer climes. They throw dinner parties. Or have nights out without children. But we might as well be living in Pleasantville for all the difference in our white one white world.

Does that sound whiny? It’s not meant to. Just observing and wondering how much longer the quo remains at status.

 

*The worst of it is the lack of space with half the house in shreds. Barely room to spread a yoga mat most days and don’t get me started on the continually shifting of stuff necessary to even cook a meal. Weekdays I manage, but on the weekends – that’s at least two or more preps and I sometimes just want to sit on the floor and cry because it’s like Sisyphus and the rock.