Tag Archives: Health

Personal Update: Warmer weather brings thoughts of walks

It’s already 34*F (11*C) this morning. I think it was a couple degrees earlier when I started my car to come into the office. As I’ve been doing, I started before I fixed breakfast. Back when we were in the single-digit temperatures (and even lower wind chills), that gave my car’ s heater just enough time to get the passenger cabin slightly about freezing. Today, I hopped in a toasty car instead. It made the five minute drive to the office even more pleasant.

What was more pleasant than that, though, was the fact that walking through the parking lot to the back door of the building didn’t involve walking against near-arctic blasts of wind. As I covered the hundred yards on foot, it occurred to me that I almost felt like going for a three mile walk in this weather. That says something about how the polar vortex has changed my perceptions regarding temperatures this winter. It does suggest, though, that I need to get walking again.

Health-wise, it’s time to get walking anyway. I haven’t been going for my near-daily treks since just before Thanksgiving, mainly because it’s been too cold (and despite my rest expectations of what’s “cold” and “not so cold,” it’s still too cold) to do any serious walking outside and the Christmas shoppers made walking at the mall nearly impossible. It’s been okay though, because I’ve been able to meet my health improvement goals without long walks. (Climbing five flights of stairs three or four times a day has certainly helped.)

I think that’s about to change, though. Everything has been completely steady for a week or two now. The weight, I don’t care so much about. While it’d be nice to lose another twenty to thirty pounds, it’s just not something I’m going to pressure myself to do. (My doctors can deal with that.) But my morning BG readings are leveling out in the 80’s. Granted, those are fantastic levels. But since one of my major goals right now is to get off the five units of insulin I’m taking daily, I need them to drop a little bit again (that way they raise back up to the 80’s or 90’s when I go off the insulin). And the return to regular walks should certainly help with that.

To support walking, though, I think I need to adjust my evening schedule. Between taking blood pressure, taking my evening pills, taking my insulin (another reason to get off it), and testing my BG, my evenings are pretty well divided up. It makes going anywhere to walk (or do anything else to exercise) for thirty five minutes rather difficult. I was doing it the week or so before Thanksgiving, but it made my evenings feel full and rushed at times.

The big culprit is taking my blood pressure at 8pm. That’s something I really need to be home to do. Plus it requires me to sit still in the seat where I’m going to check my blood pressure and give my heart time to fully get to a nice resting state. So I’m thinking about moving that to just before dinner. Or maybe late at night before I go to bed.

Taking the medication — which I also do at 8pm — at night isn’t as big a deal. It’s only one pill and I can do that anywhere. Heck, I could slip that bottle into my coat pocket and take it with me on the walk. Same thing with testing my BG. The insulin is more of a challenge, but I don’t do that until 9pm, and could move that even later. That would free up a couple hours in the evening where I could go out. Come to think of that, it would also help me be free to do other things with my evening if I wanted to.


A Personal Update: Sleep Study Edition

[Content Note:  Congestive Heart Failure, Health Issues]

Me (mostly) wired up for my sleep study.
Me (mostly) wired up for my sleep study.

One of the things that the doctors at the hospital did while I was in for CHF back in September was observe my oxygen levels overnight.  Based on the data they gathered, they determined that I had several apnic events (where I momentarily stopped breathing) throughout the night.  The next night, they reran the test while I used a CPAP machine.  The end result was that they arranged for me to get a CPAP machine.  They told me at the time that I still had to go in for a formal sleep study to better understand what was happening in my sleep (also to see if I had any other sleeping issues) and fine tune my treatment.   Last night, I went for that study, or at least the first part.  It’s still not clear to me if there will be a second part.

I got to the Strong Sleep Disorders Center around 7:30pm and was promptly shown to my bedroom.  I began unpacking my stuff and tried to relax while I waited for my technician, Tim, to come in and talk to me.about the study.  When he came in, he asked me a number of questions and then described the various places he was going to wire me up.  The picture on this post shows about 75% of the probe points he eventually wired up.  It doesn’t show the four (six?  I lost count) on the back of my head, the two EKG probes on my chest, or the probes the had me run through my pajamas so he could connect to my legs just above my ankles.  (They also put a cannula in my nose that they used to monitor the airflow out my nose.)

Once he explained everything, he set up the CPAP machine just in case they switched me over to that after the first two hours (I didn’t have the requisite forty events in the first two hours, so they didn’t).  He also had me pull out my mask from home so we could test that with their machine.  He was actually somewhat fascinated by my mask, a Fisher and Paykel Eson, as he had never seen one before.  He thought it was pretty cool.  He then went and did a few things with his other patient for the night, then came back to do the actual job of wiring me up.  I spent that time watching the last few minutes of Futurama and most of South Park.  (Sadly, USA Network was running wrestling rather than NCIS or Law&Order, either of which I would have preferred.)

After that, he had to go wire up his other patient before he came back and helped me into bed.  He than started the computers int he monitor room and ran a bunch of tests that involved having me move my eyes in a certain way, wiggle the toes on each foot, change my breathing pattern, and do other funny things.  Then it was time for me to try to sleep.

I found it somewhat weird to sleep in a room with no windows, which made it pretty dark.  There was no light from outside (like from streetlights or rooms.)  The only light in the room was the couple LED’s on the equipment and the infrared light for the camera.  (Yes, they watched me while I slept.  They also listened in.)  I had an okay night of sleep, though I felt I had a little extra trouble getting to sleep and staying that way.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m that used to the CPAP machine now or more due to the strange surroundings and being turned into a cyborg.  I did eventually manage to fall asleep, but not before Tim came in and asked me to sleep on my back (this often makes sleep apnea more pronounced).

I also dreamed a lot, and it seemed like I woke up from a lot of those dreams, which was weird.  (The weirdest dream was the one where I thought I had already gotten up the next morning and was talking to the doctor about the study.)  But I managed to make it through the night and don’t quite feel like a  zombie this morning.  Tim got me up around 5:45 so he could disconnect me and I could take a shower to get the probe paste out of my hair.  Then I filled out the questionnaire asking me how I felt about my sleep that night and how I felt about the study and the level of care I received (which was great) so I could leave.

As I said, I didn’t meet the threshold of apnic events for them to switch me over to a CPAP machine.  Tim noted that this doesn’t mean that my home machine isn’t helping or that I should stop using it (the doctor will instruct me when I see him next Wednesday).  At that point, Tim stopped himself.  I think he was getting close to discussing things that technically, he was supposed to leave the doctor to review with me.  (That’s the fun thing about technicians and nurses:  they have to be careful about how much they share despite the fact that they probably know a lot from the data they collect.)

So at this point, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I may have to go back another night so they can figure out how best to adjust my CPAP machine.  Or they might have enough information to make a call on what to do already.  Or they may take me off it altogether (though I get the impression that one’s not likely.)  I guess I’ll find out the next steps next Wednesday.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

Choosing Your Friends

FriendsAs I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I spent some time in therapy back in 2011.  I ended up going because my codependency had reached a critical mass and my life was falling apart at the seams.  I have to say that making that choice and working through some of my own problems with the help of a professional was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made.  It’s certainly among the top five.

One of the things my therapist would occasionally ask me when I got talking about issues with a particular friend or acquaintance was, “Is this relationship really worth what you’re having to deal with?  What are you getting out of it?”  She never pushed me to answer the question in any particular way, but she insisted that I face the question.  I’d say it’s probably one of the best things she did for me.

You see, prior to going to therapy, I never would have thought to ask such a question.  In fact, I’d dare say that I never even considered that I was allowed to ask such a question.  I mean, if you’re friends, you’re friends, right?  Or that was my thinking.  Until I spent some time in therapy.  And then I realized, I get to choose my friends and I get to choose whether those friendships will continue.  That was a wonderful and powerful realization, albeit a scary one.

Sometimes, we’re better off without some people in our lives, no matter what our past with those people may have been.  It doesn’t matter if Roy1 and I have been friends since the second grade.  If he says and does things that tear me down, I have every right to protect my sense of self-esteem by telling him our friendship is now a thing of the past.  It doesn’t matter if Janet and I helped each other through some really tough breakups and a substance abuse problem.  If we’ve reached a point in our lives where we really have nothing in common, it’s okay to wish her the best and let our lives slip apart.

I’ve intentionally chosen two rather different situations in the last paragraph because I want to stress that there are many diverse reasons why I can end a friendship and am empowered to do so.  It can be because the friendship is toxic to me or because the friendship just isn’t what it used to be and trying to recapture the past may be a useless and exhausting endeavor.  My choice to end a friendship may be based on the fact that the other person is a source of pain in my life or it may be based on the fact that the other person is still wonderful, but simply not someone I have that special bond with anymore.  In either case, it’s okay.

Some days, the thought of ending a friendship really is scary.  I wonder if I’m making a mistake.  I wonder if I may regret it.  In some cases, I may wonder if I’ve really given the other person a fair chance.  But in the end, I take comfort in knowing that I ultimately have that choice and it’s okay to make it.

1All names in this post are randomly chosen and represent imaginary people.

Missing my Precious

Precious gazing up at daddy lovingly.
“I love my daddy!”

[Content Note:  Brief mentions of depression.]

In a few hours, I’ll be heading down to my parents’ house to spend the night and collect my little darling, Precious.  I sent her to stay with her grandparents almost two weeks ago while I was traveling to Canada.  I’ll be happy to bring her back home with me, as my place seems too quiet without her.  I’ve already started mistaking a lump of wadded up sheets for her laying next to me or thinking I heard her meowing at different intervals.

I think that having her around also tends to make me feel better about myself and not fall into depression so easily.  I remember the first time I moved out of my parents’ home — in the late 1990’s.  At that time, I had my cat, Strype.  However, I left him at my parents’ house as the apartment I moved into did not allow for pets.  Also, Strype was such an old cat, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make him leave my parents home or his litter-mate, who had been a part of his whole life.  As a result, that apartment was dull and quiet and left me feeling quite lonely.  (Granted the massive things I was dealing with at that point in my life didn’t help, either.)

When I moved to Rochester, though, I knew I needed to bring Precious with me.  Part of that was due to the fact that although I’ve always had a good relationship with my other cats, Precious and I seem to share a sort of bond I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve never had a cat before that is as clingy as she can be.  (She’ll spend the next few days giving me the stink-eye every time I head for the door, as if to say, “You already disappeared for several days, Bub!  Where do you think you’re going now???”)  So when I moved up here, I made a point of making sure I found a place where I could have a cat.  That and having washer and drier hookups were my two major non-negotiable items.

Why I hate the Lipitor Ad

CHICAGO - JULY 23:  Lipitor tablets sit in a t...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

For the past few weeks, I’ve been regularly hearing a new advertisement for Lipitor when I’m driving in my car.  This ad encouraging people to keep taking Lipitor rather than switching to a generic medication for their high cholesterol.  The ad makes a point of arguing that Lipitor is one of the most effective cholesterol medications out there and that there is no generic form of it.  They close the ad by asking in a concerned voice, “If you’re taking Lipitor for high cholesterol and it’s working, why switch?”

Every time I hear that question, I want to pull a Barney Frank and ask the narrator in the ad, “Just how stupid are you?  Or do you just think we’re stupid?”  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the number one reason someone might choose to switch from Lipitor to a generic medication:  Generic medications cost significantly less money and not all of us are made of money.

I took Lipitor for a year or so when my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol were all in trouble.  Even with my insurance, a one month supply cost me $25.  According to one New York Times article,  The cost of a one month supply without insurance would range from $75 to $90.  That’s a lot of money for a person to be paying out each month for a single health maintenance medication.  And bear in mind that most people on Lipitor are probably also on other medications for other long term conditions like high blood pressure.  That adds up.  So it’s little wonder that people are looking at their shrinking wallets — especially in our current economy — and asking their doctor to give them a generic option that they can get for as little as $3 a month.

Now, if Pfizer was really concerned about people switching to less effective medicine, I would expect them to do something to make their more effective Lipitor a more viable option for most people.  The most obvious way to do that would be to lower the price.  And from a business standpoint (though I really have no tolerance for anyone who thinks of maintaining and improving human health as a business, to be quite frank), it also makes sense.  It’s how the principle of supply and demand is supposed to work.

But no, instead of doing that, Pfizer instead decides to launch a propaganda — I’m sorry, advertising — campain.  Rather than making their product more affordable for those who really need it — those they claim to be concerned about — they instead decide to spend millions on advertisements telling how much better better Lipitor is than the inferior generics.  They pay people to do “research” showing how generic options are not as effective or safe as Lipitor.  In effect, rather than trying to help out the people they express concern over by lowering their prices, they try to scare those people into paying money they probably don’t have in the first place.

Have I mentioned that I think pharmaceutical companies are evil?