Tuesday, January 28, 2014

redefining pain

This is taking me a while to write. For the last couple of weeks I've had blinding headaches which have left me tolerating less and less screen time, or even reading print on paper which has been a huge challenge for someone whose coping mechanism with being unwell for whatever reason is to curl up with a book.

Over that same timeframe my energy levels have taken a nosedive. Energy hasn't been my strong suit throughout my adult life, even when I'm doing well I generally have lower reserves than many of my peers, although having said that there is rather a scary number of people I know in my age group who have had debilitating energy levels over the last 25yrs. It does make me wonder whether there is some bigger picture underlying factor behind it all. But even by my standards my energy levels had been dropping for some months and then fell through the floor.

Then a week ago Sunday I found myself doubled up on the bed, then the floor in excruciating pain - period pains completely off the scale of reckonning. Topped off with full on projectile vomiting and diarrhoea thrown in for good measure and a head that felt like it was about to explode, I was not a happy bunny. Once it became obvious it really wasn't going to just stop and go away and I might as well be eating smarties as paracetamol the ambulance was called.

Well of course it was Patti who turned up, who 11months ago had been the one to respond when Phyllis fell and fractured her hip - I hope this doesn't mean we'll be taking it in turns year about! Thankfully she had a helper with her this time as there is no way Phyllis could've helped Patti carry me out to the ambulance in the stretcher chair.

The morphine shot they'd given me hadn't done anything so I spent the short journey up the hill to hospital with some kind of inhaler thing in my mouth that was supposed to help, it didn't. In fact it took two more shots of morphine to kill the pain. No wonder the paracetamol hadn't worked!

By now my veins had 'collapsed' which as far as I can work out means they'd gone into hiding - I still have a lovely collection of bruises and puncture marks on my hands and arms from where they had tried and failed to draw blood, the drip was going in the one place they'd had any success and the luer the ambulance had used for morphine had a fitting they couldn't use. So femoral artery it was for the first of what ended up being several blood tests.

At this stage I was two days off 8 straight weeks of periods back to back (I'm now at 9 weeks and decidedly unimpressed about this, although it might, just might, finally be stopping....) so the plan initially was to get me to Whangarei and the gyneacologists. But once they realised that even though it had been 8 weeks near as damnit, the bleeding hadn't been heavy, the blood tests were rather confusingly coming back normal and the cramping pains dropped to more normal levels the plan was revised to keep me in overnight (longer if need be) get my fluids back up, fill me with painkillers, try to stop the bleeding via different meds (the first attempt some weeks back by a GP having spectacularly failed) and do a referral.

More (and yet more, post-discharge from hospital) blood tests came back normal which started to indicate a possible virus as being responsible for the sudden energy drop and need to sleep more than be awake. There is a nasty one doing the rounds at present symptoms complete with loss of energy, projectile vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps, hmmm.... mind you it also includes a persistent cough and sore throat which thankfully (as yet...) I haven't had. So this could explain the ongoing stomach cramps way beyond the  couple of days that I consider normal (although with nine weeks of periods 'normal' doesn't really figure).

My blood pressure is usually low, but seems to drop stupidly low very easily at present which has resulted in a couple of really wobbly days since discharge - possibly too many cinnamon and honey drinks, so I've switched to ginger and honey instead just to be on the safe side. Cinnamon can apparently drop your blood pressure, whereas ginger boosts it.

I've ended up compromising on the headaches - I have tablets that help, but upset my stomach if I take two a day, so I'm managing on one in the morning and trying to get done what I can then which works up to a point, as long as I don't fall asleep again and miss their benefit!

I've had extended times of low energy in the past, I'm used to managing that - it's a bummer, but I've learned the hard way not to over do things on the days when I do have more energy as I then end up sleeping through the next day to make up. But what has had the biggest impact on me over the last couple of weeks was the pain. I thought I had a fairly low pain threshold, in fact I still think that, but I would've previously assumed I'd've passed out with pain that was so severe as to need 3 shots of morphine to control. As I was writhing around on the living room floor in pain I had very vivid memories of Heather doing much the same 20 yrs ago on my bedroom floor at Napier Rd, in her case it was gallstones but the effect was much the same. I don't think at the time I'd really appreciated what pain like that could feel like, but I sure do now. It was sort of a comfort though to remember that time and know that it had been overcome with a hefty dose of pethadine, it meant I had faith in doctors' ability to stop it.

The stomach cramps that have continued this week have been 'normal' levels of pain, the sort I've lived with on and off for the last 25yrs or so, but although the occassional one has had me doubled up until it has passed what has dominated my thoughts each time has no longer been 'heck that hurts' but relief that it wasn't as bad as I now know it can be, edged with fear that the next one might be.

I do seem to be making some progress though, yes I have days, like yesterday, where I achieve extremely little and feel no better than when I came home from hospital to sleep it all off in my own bed rather than theirs. But I also have a few hours every so often of functioning better, like just now, of being able to think without it being a struggle, to catch up on emails etc and be able to read the supportive and loving messages on facebook from F/friends and family around the world. Yes my joints ache, yes my head hurts, yes my abdomen feels like I've been kicked by a horse and my back like I've been doing hard labour for weeks but compared to what landed me in hospital, it is nothing I can't cope with.

Luckily life is such that I can take the time I need to get my strength back without pushing myself too hard, I can pace myself and if I need to sleep, well I can do so. I am very aware that what is hopefully a temporary situation for me in terms of energy levels is what is normal every day life on a good day for a couple of my friends, so I'm counting my blessings, taking inspiration from their positive attitudes and having faith that somehow everything will work out, as the quote goes 'Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end.'

Thursday, January 09, 2014

a decade on...

This week has been full of '10yrs ago I was...' moments and musings as 10 years ago on Monday I arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand for the first time, getting picked up at the airport by Margaret & Robert and taken to their home. I was here for the 2004 FWCC Triennial and some travelling around visiting f/Friends and family - a 'once in a lifetime' trip which changed my life completely.

So what better way to spend Monday then than by staying with Margaret & Robert, waking up in the same (but looking radically different!) house on my way home from Summer Gathering, and later getting dropped off by Margaret and their children (both born since my initial visit) back at the airport - only this time the Domestic terminal to head home to Kaitaia.

At Summer Gathering had been some of the people who had been part of that life changing process, both at the Triennial and during my travels around the country afterwards. As I face another uncertain year it was wonderful to have their presence as a reminder of how the Spirit really can move in mysterious ways and that everything will all fall into place, if only you have the faith to let it.

As if that wasn't enough yesterday I received an email from the mother of one of my dearest Triennial (and WGYF) f/Friends, who I had also met at the Triennial too and again in Kenya in 2012 asking me this "I need a quote for my art show from you, someone from the other side of the world.. fast... "If today were your last day on earth, what would you want to say as wisdom to your loved ones?"..." At first I hesitated, thinking oh I'll come back to this once I've finished my emails and given it some thought... but then I realised that whilst I might be able to tidy up the English with more time, I knew the basic essence of what I wanted to say already, so as Cat used to say (and no doubt still does...) 'think it, do it', and I hit reply with this "Well the immediate thought that sprang into my head was the Oscar Wilde quote ' Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.' The importance of being true to myself has become increasingly important to me over the years, and every time life has become a struggle it has been because I've strayed from that path to be someone other people want/expect me to be - or worse that I think they want/expect me to be without actually stopping to check!". Then just to make sure I really was listening to my own advice I had a conversation with my brother via skype this morning along very similar lines, seems like he's finally figuring that one out too.

Occasionally I'm asked questions like 'where do you envisage yourself to be in 10 years time?' and I look blankly in reply having no idea, after all there is no way in the world I could have predicted where I am now in life as I sat on the island hill top in the Bay of Islands 10 years ago today wondering what my future would hold. Hopefully I'll be happy, with a bit of luck healthy, but most importantly I hope I'll be 'me'.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

2013 in books

Well I didn't quite manage 52 books in 2013, mainly due to spending the last 3 months of the year working my way through the entire back catalogue of Time Team before returning them - I managed 15/20 series! Good accompaniment for the large amount of hand sewing and cutting out I was doing in the run up to Christmas and the Summer Gathering craft stall which was raising funds for FWCC World Office and the Philippines appeal. That rush of activity also partially explains the lack of blogging towards the end of the year....

I've grown to love audio books, especially when travelling (I can't read in road vehicles, I get travel sick) and when my eyes are simply too tired.

I've been making a concerted effort to continue to work my way through the 2003 BBC 100 Big Reads list as well as tackle some new authors and a variety of genre. Sci-fi/fantasy have started to dominate the list again though I have to confess.

I have a long list of titles ready and waiting for me in 2014, hopefully I'll get through at least 52 this year!

* means still to finish
italics means a re-read

January - March 2013
i. Medicinal Cookery - Dale Pinnock (started in 2012)
ii. The Spirit Level - Richard G. Wilkinson & Kate Pickett (started in 2012)
1. Crystal Soldier - Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
2. Battle of Rondo - Emily Rodda
3. Crystal Dragon - Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
4. This Charming Man - Marian Keyes (totally swayed by 'The Smiths' song title!)
5. The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
6. Committed - Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Brisingr - Christopher Paolini
8. Inheritance - Christopher Paolini
9. Jennie - Paul Gallico

April - June 2013
10. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
11. A Quaker Astronomer Reflects - Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Backhouse Lecture 2013)
12. Sky Dragons - Anne & Todd McCaffrey
13. One Week in December - Holly Chamberlin
14. The Wise Woman's Tale - Phillipa Bowers
15. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Schaffer
16. The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett & Steven Baxter
17. Dragon Time - Anne & Todd McCaffrey

July - September 2013
18. The Outcasts - John Flanagan
19. Mr Chen's Emporium - Deborah O'Brien
20. Things I Overheard When Talking To Myself - Alan Alda
21. The Invaders - John Flanagan
22. * Being Salt and Light - book of the 6th World Conference of Friends
23. Trader Tales: Quarter Share - Nathan Lowell (audio book)
24. The Hunters - John Flanagan
25. Trader Tales: Half Share - Nathan Lowell (audio book)
26. Trader Tales: Full Share - Nathan Lowell (audio book)
27. Trader Tales: Double Share - Nathan Lowell (audio book)
28. Trader Tales: Captain's Share - Nathan Lowell (audio book)
29. Trader Tales: Owner's Share - Nathan Lowell (audio book)
30. * To be Broken and Tender - Margery Post Abbott
31. The Bone Tiki - David Hair
32. Asterix in Spain - Goscinny & Uderzo
33. Asterix in Britain - Goscinny & Uderzo
34. The Witches - Roald Dahl
35. Esio Trott - Roald Dahl
36. The Twits - Roald Dahl
37. The Giraffe & the Pelly & Me - Roald Dahl
38. The Story of Tracy Beaker - Jacqueline Wilson
39. Matilda - Roald Dahl

October - December 2013
40. The Wit and Wisdom of Mothers - Ulysses Brave
41. Holes - Louis Sachar
42. One More River - Lynne Reid Banks
43. * Middlemarch - George Elliot
44. Nation - Terry Pratchett
45. The Taniwha's Tear - David Hair
46. The Lost Tohunga - David Hair
47. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones - Alexander McCall-Smith
48. A Trail of Fire - Diana Gabaldon
49. The Black Gryphon - Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon (audio book)
50. * The White Gryphon - Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon (audio book)