Lisa Lately

Random musings about life, family, and crochet

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Name: Lisa
Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a perfectionist. What more do you need to know?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Out and About

I went to the health club and "worked out" today. I put that in quotes because what I did hardly counts as a workout. Normally I walk a hill course on the treadmill at about 4.5 miles per hour. Today I walked a flat course at 3.0 miles per hour. I followed this with about 10 minutes on the recumbent bike at level 0 — yes, level zero. After the bike, I lifted no weights at all. I barely broke a sweat, but Ron was happy because I didn't overexert myself. Still, I was definitely glad to be moving around and working some muscles. If I feel fine tomorrow morning, I might ramp things up a bit, but I'll still be careful not to overdo anything, especially lifting weights. I don't want to mess up the healing process of the incision area. I'm hoping the incision heals nicely with minimal scarring, and lifting weights too soon could interfere with that.

The worst part of going to work out was not the reduced level of my workout, but rather the too-tight neckline on my shirt. I've been wearing blouses with open collars ever since the surgery, but this morning I wore my normal workout clothes. The long-sleeved T-shirt has a fairly loose neckline — but apparently not loose enough. I was glad to get out of it when I got home.

After lunch today, I drove myself to get a much-needed haircut. Driving was fine, so I'm back in business now. Staying home the past two weeks has made me quite stir-crazy, and my release is coming not a moment too soon!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Progress on My Afghan

I'm recovering well from my surgery, but I still can't drive yet. I can't comfortably raise my head enough yet to be a safe driver. However, my range of motion is improving a little bit each day, and I hope to be able to drive in a few days. For the time being, though, I'm stuck at home all day with nothing to do but surf the Internet, watch TV, and crochet.

After a week at home now, I can say with great certainty: Daytime TV sucks. I enjoy Ellen, the Ellen DeGeneres show. And of course, Oprah. But beyond that is a mishmash of just plain boring stuff. I'll be glad to escape and get back to my regular schedule when I can drive again.

I'm getting a good amount of crocheting done while I watch TV though. I'm making the "Great for Your Guy Afghan," which you can read about here. I'm about a quarter of the way finished with this one. When I get back to my regular schedule, I expect my work on the afghan to slow down somewhat, but I've made a great start on it.

Normally when I've made this pattern before I've used a pair of yarns with a higher contrast — dark plum with light gray, or dark brown with light brown. The Red Heart Super Saver in linen and aran I'm using this time make a more subtle contrast, but I love how it's turning out.

I like this pattern quite a bit. It looks sophisticated and complicated, but it's actually not too difficult to do. This pattern is the one where I learned how to do color changes in a way to avoid having thousands of ends to weave in. Each color is used for two rows, and instead of cutting the yarn and attaching the new color, you just drop the one color and pick up the other one. You carry the yarn along the side, where it will be covered by the border at the end. As you can see in the photos, it makes a rather neat edge that won't be hard to cover.

You do have to pay attention to the two skeins of yarn attached at once. They have a tendency to tangle if you don't rearrange them after each row. But I'd much rather move a couple of skeins of yarn every row than have a billion ends to weave in.

Have I mentioned how much I hate weaving in ends?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Don't Click Here . . . Well, Unless You Want To!

I got my stitches out this afternoon. The final pathology report came in, and it's now officially not cancer. I didn't think it would be cancer, but it's still nice to have the confirmation.

The doctor stimulated the recurrent laryngeal nerve during the surgery, and said that it's definitely paralysis, not merely paresis (weakness). The nerve can spontaneously recover, and I asked how likely that is. He said he didn't really know the numbers but it would be about 30% likely or something similar — so, recovery is possible, but most don't recover. And the fact that it's paralyzed rather than paresed means it's less likely to spontaneously recover, but still, it's not out of the question. But it could take a year or longer.

So I'm approaching this with the expectation that it will never recover and I just need to accept it, come to terms with the vocal issues, and get on with trying to improve my situation. I'm not abandoning hope, but I also don't want to be all tied up in hoping it's going to recover and then end up spending the rest of my life disappointed every day if it doesn't. So instead I'm working to accept that my voice may never return. Then if my nerve does happen to spontaneously recover, that's great.

So, in trying to improve my situation, I'm going to pursue speech therapy. In a few weeks I'm having something called a modified barium swallow. I'll swallow some barium and they'll take X rays of my neck in various positions. This will help them determine the range of motion of my vocal cord and will help them develop a speech therapy program for me.

For the ghoulish among you, I took a couple of pictures of my scar. It's at the base of my neck, about 2½"–3" long. It looks much better without the stitches, but it's still not exactly pretty. The bruising has turned to that really lovely shade of yellow, except for an odd little purple line above the incision.

Feel free to not click on these links: here and here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Learning a New Way to Savor

Thank you to everyone who has been sending me such supportive messages. You all are really great, and your kindness means so much to me!

My wonderful husband came home for lunch on Friday with chocolate pudding and chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts, and he hadn't even read my blog yet! Just goes to show what nearly 22 years of marriage can teach a man.

I've finally graduated to real food though. Today I had salad and chicken — real veggies and protein! Stuff I actually had to chew! I had to be careful, but everything went down fine, no choking, so I'm quite happy to be back on real food.

We also went to our brand-new Sam's Club, only five minutes from our house. It opened just a couple of weeks ago. This was my first outing since the surgery, and I was being careful not to overdo it. Ron pushed the cart and I pointed at stuff for him to put in it. And I did fine until about three-quarters of the way through, at which point I just conked out. So we skipped the rest and went home. Ron and Brigid put everything away and I took a long nap.

Overall, today has been a pretty good day, getting to eat real food and getting out of the house for a little while. I celebrated this evening with one of my Godiva truffles that I've been hoarding since Christmas. Normally those truffles would have been all gone already, but apparently having a paralyzed vocal cord makes eating truffles properly a difficult task. When I eat a truffle properly — you know, savor it: take a tiny bite and let it melt slowly over my tongue before allowing it to slip gracefully down my throat — it makes me choke and cough a bit. Kind of kills the pleasure aspect of the whole experience. I'm guessing it must be the high sugar content that produces this effect, but I don't really know. So anyway, the box of 24 truffles Ron gave me for Christmas, which I would normally have polished off in 24 days (or maybe 12 days), has instead lasted until now. I actually still have 12 truffles left. I've had to alter my truffle-eating procedure. I still take a tiny bite, but instead of savoring it, I actually chew it and swallow it on down. What a desecration of good chocolate! It's over way too quick! Oh well, it's better than no chocolate.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is It Really Valentine's Day Without Chocolate?

I'm back! My surgery went quite well, and although the doctor said he removed a rather large mass, the pathologist pronounced it benign, so we're all doing the happy dance here! I'm not having much pain, just some discomfort, and the last time I took any pain meds was over 24 hours ago.

I was having quite a bit of difficulty at first with choking, but the doctor sent a speech therapist to see me before I was discharged, and she gave me lots of good advice. The most important bit of advice is to tuck my chin when I swallow or cough. This has really reduced the choking, and as a bonus it has virtually eliminated any pain associated with those activities. I'm still on a soft diet, though, lots of jello, applesauce, yogurt, and pudding. I tried some scrambled eggs for dinner last night, and they went okay. Today I've advanced to grits! Still, the yogurt and pudding go down easiest.

The nurses at the hospital were terrific. Columbus Regional Hospital was Indiana's First Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence, and I can see why they earned this distinction. Each shift, the nurse and the nurse's aid assigned to me had only four patients to take care of, and thus were able to devote as much time as we each needed. I think the longest I ever waited for anyone to come when I rang for help was maybe three minutes. This was quite a different experience from my previous surgeries at other hospitals. I know one time I was one of sixteen patients assigned to one nurse, and of course I rarely saw anyone then. Everyone who helped care for me was uniformly kind and pleasant, and all seemed genuinely interested in helping me.

My only real complaint about the care was that they were out of chocolate pudding on the floor, so I ended up having no chocolate at all on Valentine's Day. What a disgrace! Actually, we don't have any chocolate pudding here at home either, so I still haven't had any chocolate yet. I'll guess we'll see just how closely my husband reads my blog and picks up on subtle hints like this now, won't we?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Long Wait

I've had 4mg of diazepam (Valium) to get me through the next few hours, and I'm pretty much ready to go. I need to be at the hospital at 1:00, and my surgery is scheduled to begin at 2:00. Now I just need to figure out how to kill time until then!

I appreciate all the kind thoughts and prayers you all have been sending my way. I hope to be back home sometime Wednesday, and I'll post an update as soon as I can. Try not to make too much of a mess here while I'm gone! :-)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Finished Sweater

I finally finished weaving in all the ends on my sweater and sewed on the buttons. I used a free pattern from Kim Guzman (CrochetKim). The pattern is called Adult Jiffy Jacket and is available here. I used vanilla TLC Amoré, a yarn I've used for several items and really like. The pattern was easy to follow, and she includes good diagrams and measurements of the pieces.

I made the small size with a few adjustments: I made the sleeves longer and shortened the length of the cardigan. But otherwise I followed the diagrams and the given measurements. I still have not succeeded in making a sweater I'll wear in public, but this one is awfully close. Its main problem is it is just too big for me. It fits okay around the chest and across the shoulders, but the waist area is too big and the upper sleeves are just huge on me. In the photos, I've pulled the sweater together in the back so it looks better, but of course I can't actually wear it like that.

I'd like to make this sweater again, but I'd have to adjust the measurements to fit me better. But this would be fairly easy to do because of the great diagrams and measurements Kim included. Diagrams and measurements really help a lot. I wish all clothing patterns would include them. I won't even attempt a pattern that doesn't. How can you know if you're making it correctly if you don't know what the pieces are supposed to look like? And how can you alter it to fit your own measurements?

I really like the TLC Amoré, except when it comes to sewing pieces together. This yarn just is not well suited for that. After a few inches of sewing, the yarn begins to shred and unravel at the ends. All yarns display this characteristic to some degree, of course, but this yarn wears out sooner than others do. This means that instead of using short lengths of yarn for sewing, you have to use really short lengths, which means lots more ends to weave in when you're finished assembling everything. And I hate weaving in ends.

I'd still like a sweater made of this yarn, but I think I'll have to make a top-down raglan sweater with no assembly required. Time to turn to Janis Cortese and her excellent "General Guidelines for a Basic Sweater" (here), which includes instructions for both crocheting and knitting, and Pamela Costello's "The Incredible, Custom-fit Raglan Sweater" (here), which is for knitters but can be easily adapted for crocheting, especially if you read Janis's page first.

But first I'm going to make that afghan I mentioned the other day. This will be the "Great for Your Guy Afghan," which I've made a couple of times before. I posted an entry about it last year, which you can read here. I'll be using Red Heart Super Saver in linen and aran.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

When 98% Is Not Good Enough

I saw my doctor yesterday and got 98% good news. My biopsy came back normal, and needle biopsies are 95%-98% accurate. But the vocal cord palsy still bothers my doctor — and not because my voice isn't working correctly. My doctor says that the number one cause of this is thyroid cancer, and you work under the assumption that it IS cancer until you prove that it isn't. And since the biopsy isn't 100% accurate, we haven't proven it isn't cancer yet. It's only a really really small chance that the biopsy was wrong, but if we make a mistake here, he'd prefer we erred on the side of caution and do too much rather than miss a cancer and have it go unchecked and thus get much worse. The repercussions of being wrong are major bad, especially since thyroid cancer is very curable — but only if you actually treat it.

So, I'm having half my thyroid removed next Tuesday — yes, Valentine's Day. The pathologist will be in the operating room, and he'll test it once it's removed. If he says it's not cancer, which is what I expect he'll say, they'll close me up and that will be it. I'll have to have my thyroid checked in about a month once it calms down from the surgery, but usually half a thyroid works just fine. If the thyroid isn't working correctly, I'll have to take thyroid hormone pills every day forever. Plus, no matter what, I'll have to have my thyroid checked via ultrasound once a year forever.

However, if the pathologist says it's cancer, they'll remove my entire thyroid, as well as possibly some lymph nodes. Then in a few weeks, I'd take a radioactive iodine pill to kill any remaining thyroid cells, and I'd be radioactive for a couple of days, but that should take care of the cancer. And if they take the entire thyroid, I would definitely have to take hormones forever.

The surgery won't fix my voice, though. And frankly, I'm much more worried about my voice than about the slight possibility that it might be cancer. Once we're finished with all the surgical stuff, I can have some speech therapy to try to improve my voice. The palsy might resolve itself over time, but if after about six months to a year it hasn't, we can consider some surgical options. But in the meantime, I'll just have to get used to people asking me all the time if I have laryngitis and backing away because they think I'm contagious. I'm thinking of getting my forehead tattooed: "I'm not sick. It's a paralyzed vocal cord." But that would involve needles, and we already know I don't like needles.

Okay, I hope my next entry will be about crochet. If I can make myself go weave in those stupid ends on my sweater, I'll be finished with it and I can post some pictures. Hmm, I wonder if it's just my needle phobia that's preventing me from finishing this. I'm trying to decide what my next project will be. I have several things I'd like to do, but I think I should focus on something a bit mindless now, like maybe an afghan with just enough complexity to occupy my mind but not so complex that I have to think really hard about counting and shaping. Hmm, just like that, I think I've decided. I'm going to make an afghan I've made before, which should be perfect for this time period. Now I have to go weave in those ends.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Flowers from My Sister

My sweet sister Michelle, aka Princess of Everything, sent me these beautiful flowers. Hey, my biopsy site feels better already!

Also, I want to thank everyone who has sent me encouraging words. It really does help! You all are great!

Valium Is My Friend

I must say, the people who work in the radiology department at Columbus Regional Hospital are great. Everyone I've dealt with over the past couple of weeks of tests and more tests has been extremely friendly, helpful, sympathetic, and calming — even the radiology receptionist, who has gone out of her way to let people in the waiting room know where they are in the process and how long it will be before their turn comes up, all without being asked. The radiology techs have all carefully explained the procedures and kept me informed of their progress during each procedure. That kind of caring treatment sure goes a long way to helping an overly anxious patient get through the testing.

I had my FNA biopsy of my thyroid gland yesterday. I got through the procedure fine, albeit with the help of an exceptionally sympathetic medical team, my husband Ron holding my hand, a wash cloth over my eyes so I wouldn't accidentally see anything I didn't want to see, and oh yeah, 10mg of diazepam (Valium).

The procedure involved first numbing the skin of my throat with injected lydocaine, then numbing further into my throat. They said this would be the hardest part, and as far as pain goes, they were correct. The rest of the procedure was not painful, although I did feel pressure; that is, I could tell they were doing something. But since I knew what they were doing, my overactive imagination made this part harder. But it wasn't terrible and I survived. I have two nodules, and the doctor needed to take three samples from each one. This meant a minimum of six needle jabs. A couple of pathologists were in the room to examine the cells as they were collected. The pathologists needed to be sure the cell samples were good ones. If not, the doctor would need to take another sample. He did a great job, though, and got all six samples on the first try. I was quite relieved to hear the pathologist say the samples were all good. Now I just have to wait until the pathologists do whatever they do to the cell samples to determine what they are.

I have a small place on my neck that looks like a mosquito bite, until you get close enough to see all the needle pricks. That area of my neck is slightly swollen and quite tender, even today. I've been icing it for about 15 minutes every couple of hours. I was told I might have some bruising, and I do bruise easily, but so far the bruising has been really minimal. You have to look really closely to see it, and from a distance I think it just looks like a shadow.

My followup appointment with my ENT doctor is this afternoon, and he expects to have all my test results by then. As I said in an earlier post, I don't expect this to be anything serious, but still, I'm a bit anxious waiting to have that belief confirmed.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Do You Know My Name?

Is it a bad sign that the receptionist at the hospital's out-patient registration knows my name now? When I arrived for this morning's tests, she cheerfully greeted me by name. Nice of course, but not quite the same sensation as when the wait staff at your favorite restaurant recognizes you.

My doctor has decided to add a new test tomorrow. I'm having an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy of the nodules in my thyroid. I'll get the results Wednesday.

I expect this test's results to come back fine, but I'm not looking forward to the procedure. They can do all the CT scans and MRIs and X rays they want, but I'd really rather not have them sticking any needles in my neck, no matter how fine they are!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Impatient Patient

On Friday I got the results of my medical tests for the mysterious laryngitis. My bloodwork and MRI were fine, but the CT scan of my throat showed that I have some nodules in the right lobe of my thyroid and that the lobe is enlarged. The MRI ruled out any neurological problems, so now we're focusing on the thyroid. Nodules in the thyroid don't necessarily mean anything: A lot of people have them, and in fact don't even know it. But this means I get to have a few more tests.

If we end up ruling out the thyroid, which I hope we do, then I'll end up with the normally dreaded idiopathic (unknown cause) label. In this case the vocal cord palsy and subsequent laryngitis aren't anything to be overly concerned about — except that I can't talk well and that I choke if I don't drink in just the right way. Sometimes these things resolve on their own, also for unknown reasons. So we'd watch me for six months or so to see if it does resolve, but if it doesn't resolve after six months to a year, then we'll look at other treatment options.

So, thyroid or not, I suspect the laryngitis is here to stay for a while.

So now I'm off on my next round of testing. First, on Monday I'm getting an ultrasound of my thyroid to get a better picture of the nodules. Also, I'm having a chest X ray that day, mostly as a precaution I think, just to be sure nothing odd is going on in my lungs.

I'm also going to have something called a thyroid uptake/scan, which is a two-day test. I go in the first day and get a scan of my thyroid and then take an iodine pill. Then I come back 24 hours later and get another scan of my thryoid after the iodine has reached it. One hitch, though, is that I just had a CT scan on Monday, and they injected me with iodine for that procedure. So before we can do the thyroid uptake/scan, we have to wait until the iodine clears out of my body — which unfortunately will take four weeks!!!! So I have a pair of appointments at the end of February for that.

I'll see my doctor again this Wednesday to get the results of the ultrasound and chest X ray, but I think the real test is the one I have to wait four weeks for. I am not one who waits for things like this patiently — but then, who is? — so I think February is going to be a long month!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Dick Van Dyke Show

Ron and Brigid got me a terrific gift for Christmas this year: The Dick Van Dyke Show — The Complete Series. This 25-DVD set includes all five seasons of the show, of course, but it also includes a ton of extra stuff, including episodes of other TV shows that featured characters and/or actors from the show.

This is my favorite TV show of all time. The writing, the ensemble cast, and the humor were all excellent and set a standard that few sitcoms have been able to match. Even though I've seen most (or maybe all) of the episodes and know what's coming, I still find them hilarious.

One of the things I'm enjoying the most about watching all these shows is also watching Brigid's reaction to them. She's seen several episodes on Nick at Night or TV Land here and there over the years, but most of the episodes are new to her. I love seeing her laugh at shows that made me laugh when I was a kid! The humor holds up well.

We watch two to four episodes at a time and so far we're only up to disc 3, so we still have a lot of watching left to do.