Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Touchy Feely- Stretching the Limits

I hope y'all had a fabulous Christmas and Santa brought you all you wanted. I pray y'all have a safe and blessed New Year.

Just out of the hospital this past summer, I had horrible balance. It was carry my cane everywhere or do the touchy feely thing with walls and furniture. A major part of the problem was I was never given PT in the hospital. I went from prone in bed or sitting in bed to discharged home. Let me tell you, standing up that first time without help was scary. I'd only been in bed for almost two whole weeks. I wobbled a bit as I commanded my legs to hold me
Playskoll Webbles
up. Webbles wobble, but they don't fall down, but people do. No I didn't fall. I may be impatient, but I'm not stupid.

The paperwork for discharge had been signed and home care instructions were issued.  I had waited two hours for the aide, and Mel and I were ready to go. I got to my feet and the bed alarm went off. The nurse rushed in, but I had to get dressed to go home.It was three steps to the commode. With the bathroom door opened, the nurse couldn't help me. I made it and plopped my hinny on the seat. I had Mel pass me my clothes and shoes. I got dressed.

Luckily the handicap rails were on the correct side for me. Have you noticed this problem? You got a 50:50 shot, right? For me, it 75:25 of the rail being on the correct side in any given handicapped bathroom. I'd choose wrong and the rail is on my right affected side which offers me no assistance. Pulling my pants up was a acrobat feat worth paying for, but I accomplished the task. Getting into my shoes was problematic, but they always are. My cane wasn't in sight. The staff had stowed it in this closet. As I was emerging out of the bathroom, my aide appeared. "Honey, I told you I'd help you."

Months passed. Where I once was walking inside the house with no assistance, I found I was having to touch or hold walls to keep my balance. Coming off the antipsychotic drug helped, but I was still having issues with balance. A reduction of the seizure med helped even more. I was only doing the touchy feely thing in wide open walking, with stairs, and any place that wasn't level. Physical therapy helped restore my confidence in my feet and legs. Eventually, I was able to come off the seizure meds entirely. Almost instantaneously, I was able to walk upright again and have my balance back. Almost entirely the need for that touchy feely instinct is gone.

She's carrying a leaf in her mouth. Goofy dog!
I still touch a piece of furniture or wall if I have to step over a household animal, or brace myself firmly against a tree when the 80+ lb Kassity comes barreling down the hill straight at me. Even a non impaired person would do that. She's all energy and forward momentum. She doesn't jump on me, but stops and leans on me to be talked to and petted. But even that would throw me off balance without my cane. Yes, I'm now back to walking without my cane outside.

Now, it was a question of strengthening. It's taken forever (just 4 months) for me to get three-quarters back to my old self. I've got to get that last quarter plus to be ready for spring planting and pruning five months away.

This week, I was out on the property picking up kindling for the wood stove. That's one of the chores I do around here. About 50 ft behind the house is where our ravine begins. In increments, this slope drops 600 ft down to the spring fed creek which borders our property on two sides. Well about
5 or 6 ft down, I see some choice dead fall branches. The slope was less than 45 degrees. I puzzled out a route around the small trees and bushes to get down there and get back up the slope. The branches would make quick work of the 38-gal trash can full of kindling I had to fill. So I went for it. I was stretching my limits for sure, but I was feeling good and froggy.

We use junk mail and tree twigs and branches to start our fires with. Waste not, want not. When it's been dry for a few days, I'll fill the (3) trash cans with this kindling. So anyhow, I traverse down this slope. I'm holding small, small knee high undergrowth and testing my footing with each step. I was under no illusion that the bush would stop me from sliding, but that little support bolstered my confidence to climb farther down.

I might note here that it's a 45 degree or greater angle slide down to the creek below (about 660 ft). I'll add, if I didn't hit a tree on the way down. I sure didn't want to do that - let alone the climb back up again. I may take chances, but I'm not stupid. Maybe a little insane, but definitely not stupid.

About half way down, I started a another pile of my candidates for a pile. I stuffed them under my affected arm now that I have limited control of my shoulder again. I climbed to where there was a pile of limbs I saw from the top. Looking up from where I started I felt a wave of self accomplishment, but the real trick was making it back up. I gathered branches and twigs and tossed them up the slope as far as I could... about a foot with all the undergrowth. I repeated this process until I had the pile licked. I made my way up to the pile and repeated the process until all branches and limbs were up on semi-flat ground at the top.

I leaned on the propane tank and broke my prize up into about 12" pieces. I brought enough from my jaunt down the slope to fill the trash can. I closed the lid and happily rolled the trash can into the barn. Later, it would be divided into 5-gallon buckets and brought into the house. Each 5-gal bucket will start 5 fires. The trashcan will be fill ten 5-gal buckets. That's a whole lotta warmth in three of those trash cans. I'll fill all the cans before the snow starts falling and keep filling them until it does. We shouldn't need much after that because the wood stove will be constantly going.

I was too pooped to pop afterwards. I sat in front of my computer playing mind games and watched a movie for four hours before it was time to cook dinner. Well not exactly cooked. I opened two pint jars of beef stew I'd canned earlier in the year, but I made biscuits. By this stretching my limits showed me that I'm getting back to my old self again. Now for my next testing of my limits... you'll have to wait and see.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Living Post Stroke Just Got Easier!

I pray y'all have a Merry Christmas full of wanted gifts, surrounded by family, and love.

I won't keep you in suspense any longer. The scan was negative for mets! What my PCP wanted to see me about was thyroid replacement hormones since I once again have no thyroid gland. NO MORE CANCER!!!! Anyone who has the genetically altered genes from atomic bomb blast shouldn't have a thyroid gland.
Thank you God for giving my thyroid back to me,
BUT please do not heal this part of my body again!

Heal other parts of my body first.
Does this sound selfish? I apologize, but it's the truth. I guess He's healing me in order of occurrence. My first battle with cancer was cervical. Since I later had all those rusted pipes removed, I'm not sexually active, and at my age, He didn't see the sense in restoring those items. I'm praising Him loudly for this.😁

It's rifle season for deer hunters. So the barter agreement I made with the young man who delivers our firewood is in effect. For every deer he shoots, I'll help him clean, skin, and butcher it, and he'll give us three quarters of the meat from the kill and even the hide if I want to tan it. It's been many a year since I've tanned my own buckskin. He collects antlers and has very little need for the meat being a single guy. I'm not exactly going hunting for deer on our property and I'm not as mobile as I once was. He came last week and set up his game cameras and blind down by the creek.

I hope he gets a ten pointer, but I doubt it. Nnyus, our livestock guardian dog, chases off all other animals that aren't supposed to be on the property. If it doesn't belong to us, it's a predator to our livestock or gardens. He'll be here to man his blind at 6 AM every weekend during the season, but then again in GA, we can hunt our own property anytime for food regardless of the season, but we abide by the seasons guideline. We honestly need meat in our freezer. My mouth is drooling over the prospect of fresh venison and recipes keep popping into my head.

I guess I could stake out the orchard area on the other side of the property to hedge our bet some. I've seen fresh hoof prints and scat in the orchard. So I know they are visiting there. Nah, it's not worth the bruised shoulder and aggravating my spasticity in my right arm. There's something to be said against no pain, no gain when no or reducing pain is my number one goal these days. I wish him luck!

We're gearing up for Christmas, how about you? Without my children and grands around, I'm sort of 'Bah Humbug' this year. I haven't been home to see anyone in over a year. I won't be going home this year because I still can't drive yet. Another month to go since my six month mark of being seizure free.  It's been a double edged sword not being able to drive.

We didn't even break out the Christmas decorations. It's just one more thing to take out, put up, and take down. Even my little 1' tree was too much effort for either of us. So Christmas stayed packed up in the barn this year. I might bake some sugar cookies and decorate them. Although, neither of us like them very much. Maybe I'll make some Buckeyes, that's more to our tastes. As far as Christmas dinner goes. Pfft! No sense in making a huge amount of food for just us. Maybe a small beef roast or grill a couple of Ribeye steaks. Nothing elaborate just dinner for us two. I'd do TV dinners, if I had an oven. Wait, they make them microwaveable now, right? It's been decades since I've bought one. Are they still so blah tasting? The pictures on the box always look so great.

I should be celebrating, right? But I have the carry over effect from the high I-131 radiation...chronic fatigue. I keep telling myself I'll be better in January and I will. It's the high stress letdown too. I know all of this. I miss my husband. On the Christmases when my ex had the children, he'd take me to the local Chinese restaurant for something different to eat instead of turkey, ham, or roast beef. They were the only restaurant in town open on Christmas day...even McDonald's is closed. Mama and Daddy Chow's restaurant was always open. I cooked there when they first opened their doors and remained part of their family since 1977. My oldest daughter cut her teeth on their rib bones. But the restaurant closed its doors three years ago when Daddy Chow died at 90. Christmas is the time for nostalgia or is it melancholy, right?

Okay. Now I'm just rambling. 
Merry Christmas y'all! 

Nothing is impossible! 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: More AFO Craziness

June 1918 #3 AFO
It amazes me that some stroke survivors can go years without having major go on other than replacing a buckle or strap. My AFO is defunked yet again. This makes the going on 4th time I've had to replace mine in only seven years! This is on top of just replacing broken buckles and straps. I always think of myself as unique. But this is going on ridiculous.

Granted there were extenuating circumstances like the increasing spasticity, pressure sores, broken bones, and the like. Now, I've been casted yet again for another one. It seems every 18 months, I've got to get another one.

My #2 daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis at 2 years old. So I was well versed in getting replacement braces and splints for her every time she hit a growth spurt (about every18 months). But I'm not growing anymore except for out, as in fluctuating weight not height.

I go through a questioning period with myself with AFO replacements. Am I just too active and hard on my AFO? What's the sense in getting a orthotic if it won't allow you to do things as normally as possible? I mean without it, I can't be upwardly mobile and walking. Isn't that what it's supposed to do and keep on doing it? Why am I having such trouble with getting one and keeping it functioning. This time, instead of causing a blood blister that was surgically removed decubitus taking weeks to heal, but it then later it formed new pressure sores on my heel and ankle.  Am I doing something unusual? Everyone tells me I'm doing what I should be doing. Maybe a bit extreme, but they all tell me that they wished half of their patients follow my example. This is as far as getting on with their lives not homesteading.

Am I too unique and quirky that I can't be fitted for more than a 18-month life span for this orthotics? Possibly. I break a strap or buckle loose every four months or so. They've even started putting three or more rivets in mine to take the strain I put on them. I mean what's the normal time frame for this to happen, I dunno. I only have what's happened to me. The orthotic's company really can't tell me. At least not the one here. Their tag line is "Empowering Human Potential." Why can't they figure this out? It's not rocket science just mechanics. But even going once a month for adjustment to my current AFO is not working. I wish there was another orthotics company closer than the 2 1/2 hour drive to Atlanta.

Last year's hope of getting out of this AFO permanently was sort of derailed. Between the smoking issue and the baclofen pump fiasco that pretty much ate up the year. So I'm faced with another new AFO. GRRR!

In other news...
I had the full body scan done. I called for the results and was given an appointment for next week. That's never a good thing. My PCP and I have a rule, you don't bother me and I won't bother you unless absolutely necessary. I'm not a self fulfilling prophecy type of person. I don't mourn loss until it's done and over with like when my husband was dying. I don't tend to worry at all. I tell my Daddy (God) and leave Him in control.

I'm not in self denial. I know why I'm going to see my PCP for the results. The cancer is not gone. My only question is where and what course of treatment options I have. I'll decide, after praying, just what choice I chose. I may chose to do not to do anything. I'm honestly tired of fighting. Don't get me wrong. I love my life even such as it is living post stroke. The ultimate choice is mine.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Getting on with Life!

Once again I'm cancer free for the time being. After a month of glowing in the dark, I can be around people and animals again. I have a whole body CT next week to find out whether it has spread. So technically, I'm not out of the woods yet. This makes the third time I've had my throat cut. Twice because of cancer and once by a rapist. I never want to go through that again.

To celebrate this week, I'm going to paint the wood for the new quail hutches. Actually they are not new. They were the old outdoor rabbit hutches. I started dismantling them before my surgery and left the remainder of the quad-plex of rabbit hutches that were against one side of the house for Mel to finish.

While I spent so much time waiting on my cancer surgery (since May), I started research raising quail for our homestead for several reasons. Quail is fairly lean and all dark meat unlike chicken and other poultry. We are huge dark meat fans here. A 6-8oz bird once
dressed and cooked provides one serving of 3 to 4 ounces of meat. The perfect serving size. They are small and easy to butcher one-handed.

Quail eggs provide extra health benefits. Chock full of vitamin B for nerve health and promotes a healthy gut. Vitamin D and phosphor for bone growth and strength, and boosts immunities. Vitamin A for boosting immunities. Vitamin K to promote clotting (not so good for stroke survivors), but this vitamin also helps with calcium absorbancy. The yolks contain luthein and zeaksantin for your retinas, it's a little bit lower than carrots. The eggs help stabilize cholesterol numbers. They contain choline which improves the memory function in the brain.

For the same space it took to raise four rabbits, I can raise 288 quail! Not that I plan to raise that many at once. Quail are fully grown and will start laying eggs in as little as 6 to7 weeks old instead of 6 to 7 months for chickens. Granted it takes 3 quail eggs to make 1 large chicken egg, but they make better economic sense. I'll be starting with twenty-five birds and hatch out more until we have about, at most, 100 birds to sell, breed, or eat.

My PT was put on hold for the past month. I'm looking forward to that starting back up later this month. My left arm strength was increased to where I could lift a thirty pound bag of cat food with little or no trouble. I was even more stable walking again. I didn't feel like I had to touch furniture as I walked by to keep my balance. I could walk down the ramps and walk into the bunny/chicken hoop barn again without the use of my cane. My stamina was increasing almost to the point of before my two-week hospitalization in mid summer. I'm hoping to get more stronger and have even greater balance by the end of the year with my return to PT.

With the sloped terrain on our property, my steps per day get an extra punch. Even walking on the semi flat 1/4 acre part of the property is still a fairly good chunks of steps each day as I tend to the animals (not to mention bending and lifting), feeding, watering and grooming. Raking and turning the compost in place deep litter barn straw. Picking up kindling (sticks and branches) for the wood stove. Carrying splits of wood inside to burn in the wood stove.  Added to my PT/OT exercises twice a day (Yes, I still do them to the best of my ability), I get quite a work out. I don't need to pay for no stinking gym membership.

 I easily hit my daily step goal of 25k-50k.  I had even thought of going back to my previous daily goal of 75k-100k steps. It'll be easier to do when Mel starts her chicken farm operation on the lower 1/4 acre orchard terraces. The plan includes concrete block stairs for easier access. For now, I use the yard tractor to get below the first tier, because the sloped access is too steep for me to traverse safely. I'd really hate falling and rolling down that twenty-foot slope, trying to get up at the bottom, and making my way back up the terraced orchard levels.

It's the stuff of nightmares. One every impaired person fears. Each tier is 14' wide and drops 7' on each level except the 8' wide track which allows tractor or truck access on either side that slopes downward. We designed it this way keeping in mind that as the dwarf trees grew, they'd have ample light and space for ladders and half bushel baskets. On the two lowest tiers, we've planted pecan and walnut trees. This is also where we grow orchard grass/hay for our livestock. Currently, we only have (2 each) the nut trees, apple, cherry, plum, planted. Our trellised raspberry, grapes, and blueberries take up most of the first 75' upper tier. With fig and peach trees going in this year. There's still about thirty feet on each tier left unplanted. This is where Mel plans to put her chicken operation.

I want to try growing upland rice in a  10'x10' patch this spring. Just a trial patch as an experiment and for seed for a larger patch the following year. If this is successful, it'll be another item I can check off my self sustainable check list. We love our rice. So I've spent the past month researching and planning. I couldn't do much else. I know from experience, when battling cancer, the depression and what-ifs can really bring me down. This makes my fifth time battling this.

The key is planning what to do next after the battle is over and you've won. There's time enough to worry/pray/cry about inevitable outcomes if the CT shows mets. If I have to side step from the path because of additional surgeries or treatments so be it. I'll still have a plan for when I win this battle and I plan on winning. The alternative is that cancer kills me, but I'll still win because I'll be where I ultimately want to be too.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Take Time to Enjoy Life's Blessings!

After over seven years of living post stroke, I've found the preciousness of the small stuff is a blessing to be enjoyed.

What blessings greeted me yesterday morning?
  • I woke up refreshed after a good night's rest. My pain level was about only a 5 out of 10. 
  • I was able to put my AFO correctly and get up from my bed by myself.
  • I was able to relieved myself without having having to change a soaked diaper.
  • I was able to make a pot of my favorite Earl Grey tea and carry a cup out to watch the sunrise over the ridge.
  • I had a meaningful chat with my Father and plan my day.
  • I was able to shower and bathe myself.
  • I was able to change my night clothes for day wear. 
  • I was able to scrub my face, run a comb through my hair, and brush my teeth.
Sound simplistic? Maybe. But a few short months ago, I couldn't do any of those things so they are blessings! In fact, I was quite literally dead. But, here I am drawing air into my lungs and my heart keeps beating such as it does. Honestly, a teeny, tiny piece of me wishes it was not so, but have breath-will live my time to the fullest as God intended. These are victories and blessings rolled into one!

Later in the day, my blessings were:
  • Made myself breakfast and cleaned the dishes afterwards.
  • I ground the sprouted and dried wheat berries into 5 lb of flour for the week's bread. Ours is not an electric grain mill, but a hand cranked one.
  • Fed and watered the animals both inside and out, and gave each the attention they deserve.
  • I gathered the eggs that the chickens had laid since the afternoon before.
  • I managed to blow out and comb one angora rabbit. That's up from only doing half a rabbit a day, but not as good as before my surgeries of three rabbits a day. Oops! I slipped in a comparison. Naughty, naughty!

I focus these blessings throughout the day as I plow. I'll be met with more blessings and failed attempts.It's the little things I know so many stroke survivor can't say that. This too is my blessing that I'll stick in my pocket for when frustration points hit.

You know frustration points are going to hit because you are relearning or learning to do whatever. Frustration causes you to doubt your recovery, but most of all doubt yourself. Before long. you are kicking yourself while you're down. Never a good thing. I take a moment and remember all my blessings so far in the day. I stay away from thoughts that will drag me farther into despair like comparing my life now and before my strokes. That life is over. I've started my life over in this new reality of the present.

Even on a "can't do anything" day where I can't even move to get out of bed by myself, I'll look out of my bedroom window. The sun will rise, the birds will call and sing to each other. Now with Autumn, the maples, oaks and poplars are ablaze with colorful leaves. I can be thankful for these little things too. Eventually my older arthritic joints will loosen and I'll be able to get up and start the other things most people take for granted.

I take nothing for granted. You can't do anything if you are dead and I was before the doctors managed to bring me back. Now, there's a comparison I'll gladly make and count it as a blessing too. I know you've heard, "Any day above ground is a good one." Your circumstances may not be your doing and you cannot change it right now. But, just as important is the quality of that day. That is entirely up to you. It is your choice.

Nothing is impossible.